Home NBA Kevin Love shows leadership for the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love shows leadership for the undermanned Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love-Cavaliers
Photo: AP/Jacob Kupferman

Cleveland Cavaliers bounced back from an unexpected Wednesday loss to the Houston Rockets. Kevin Love and co. had to play without All-Star guard Darius Garland to get a huge 102-101 win over the Hornets in Charlotte.

Kevin Love made two free throws with 1.2 seconds left to put his team ahead as the Cavaliers saw Charlotte returning from a seven-point deficit in the last three minutes of the regulation. Love had 25 points coming off the bench, while All-Star snub Jarrett Allen finished with a monster double-double of 29 points and 22 rebounds.

“He’s Kevin Love. There was no doubt in our mind that when he was going to the free-throw line he’s gonna make them both. ”There’s no situation that he hasn’t seen. There is no pressure-filled moment that he hasn’t been in,” Cleveland’s head coach J.B.Bickerstaff said in the post-game presser.

In addition to Garland, the Cavaliers played without Collin Sexton, Ricky Rubio, and Lauri Markkanen- with all of them being out with season-ending or long-term injuries. Cleveland used its defensive prowess to stop one of the best offensive teams in the league. Charlotte entered Friday’s contest scoring a league-leading 114.3 points per game.

“It was our defense. You hold a team that this good offensively to 15 and 19 points in the second and third quarter. Our defense got us going and that was able to trigger the offense. Once you’re able to get stops and get out in transition, you’re able to create some easy ones(shots)”, Bickerstaff said.

Bickerstaff went ahead to praise Love and Allen for the great effort on both ends of the floor. Love scored 22 of his 25 points in the second half to help his team return to its winning path. Cleveland is tied with Milwaukee at 32-21, which ranked as the third-best record in the East.

“JB wants me to shoot the ball and wants me to shoot it with confidence. I feel confident and I can go out there and help the team score the ball and space the floor for others to make plays,” Love said on his role with the Cavs this season.

Love is experiencing a renaissance season in Cleveland, after multiple years that the Cavs’ sharpshooting big struggled with his role and his place in the team. He’s averaging 14.5 points on 43.4 percent shooting and 39.5 percent from deep. He also adds 7.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists through 22.0 minutes per game.

The Cavaliers are a plus-5.2 when Love is taking the floor this season. The 2016 NBA champion is coming off the bench destroying the opponent’s second units, while he’s an important part of Bickerstaff’s closing lineups in games. Cleveland is tied with Miami and Utah for the best plus-minus (+1.2) regarding the bench units around the league.

“They call me grandpa around here. Those are things that you dreamed about when you’re young. I just put myself in that type of mindset and I have the trust of my teammates,” Love stated on the winning free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining in the game.

“The free throws have been a little bit of our Achilles heel the last two weeks. I just wanted to knock them and give ourselves the chance to make play on defense and get out of here alive with the win.”

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