Kevin Love

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

You can talk all day and all night about the greatest teams of all time. And you really can't come to any conclusions. Differing eras makes it too difficult.

But there has never been another team like this version of the Golden State Warriors.

Folks, time changes. And it has changed basketball in a very big way. You know that, of course, but it may be a bigger change than you think.

Yes, the Warriors shoot the three-point shot like nobody else -- in volume and accuracy. In Game 3, they made 16 of their 33 threes while Cleveland was hitting just 12 of 44. That's a huge edge.

And I must say, Steph Curry is just as unique as his team. I know Kevin Durant is getting most of the headlines from Wednesday's game -- as he should -- but we're already taking Curry for granted because he's been doing his amazing thing for a few years now.

It wasn't just that Curry made five of his nine three-point shots. It's that he made shots -- and continues to make shots -- from spots where other players don't dare shoot them. And he gets them off quickly, too. Curry's edge over most every other player in the NBA is that he's accumulating points three at a time on shots that nobody else makes with consistency. If he gets a glimmer of daylight from about 25 feet and in, he can be deadly. I don't remember any other player in the history of the game as proficient as he is at shooting in volume from distance.

And above that, he's a perpetual motion machine. He had 13 rebounds Wednesday because he's so active. He gets to the ball, whether in the air or on the floor. In his own way, he's as difficult to defend as any of the game's legendary players.

And yes, the Warriors also have other shooters. Klay Thompson and Durant are terrific. But what makes these guys special is that they move the ball and move bodies. They play an unselfish, equal-opportunity offense that doesn't allow the defense to lock in on anybody. In contrast to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland plays too much one-on-one. It's really not sustainable -- even as good as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are at it -- over the long haul against a team moving the ball the way the Warriors do.

Wednesday, 72.5 percent of Golden State's made field goals were assisted. For Cleveland, it was just 42.5. EVERY SINGLE SHOT by Thompson, Draymond Green, David West and Shaun Livingston came off an assist. That's crazy.

And of course, when a lot of people are evaluating this series at some point, they're going to point fingers at the Cavaliers' "supporting cast" and conclude Cleveland didn't get enough production out of it. I think it's easy to say that, but my observation over many years of watching this game is that when one or two players are as ball dominant as James and Irving are, other players simply don't get a good feel for the game. What you end up with is players who are so eager to actually get a shot they burp up a bad one (J.R. Smith) or become more reluctant to shoot (Kevin Love). It's a natural response when you aren't getting consistent touches.

Basketball is changing at warp speed and the Warriors are leading the way. Shooting from distance is of paramount importance these days. You simply cannot afford to get outscored by a big number from behind the three-point line. It's so difficult to overcome that. And you've got to move the ball and play unselfishly to get open three-point shots.

And to beat the Warriors, you're going to need a great team. And there is only one great team out there right now and it's the Warriors. And they are so much different than any of the other great teams in history that it's hard to say where they fit.

A few other thoughts about Game 3:

  • I'm still not understanding why James didn't get out past the three-point line on Durant on that critical shot late in the game. That shot was too important to allow it to be wide open.
  • I'm also bewildered as to why the NBA allows these games to degenerate into a wrestling match. So many obvious fouls are being ignored that if you actually get called for a foul -- or a travel or a double dribble -- you're just flat-out unlucky. It's a joke.
  • People are saying that Green isn't playing his best during this series but he does so many things for his team. Wednesday night he led all players in contested shots with 15, had the best plus/minus of anybody with 14 and had a team-high seven assists to go with a team-high five screen-assists. That doesn't sound like a bad game to me.
  • The only team capable of beating the Warriors is the Warriors. If they don't move, or move the ball, or take a night off on defense, they can be had. But that's the only way.

 

 

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

The NBA Finals (finally) start tonight in Oakland and here are three things to keep an eye on during the series, three things that could decide the Finals rubber match between these two superteams:

  • How will this series be officiated? Last year the Cavaliers were able to get very physical with Steph Curry -- holding him, bumping him and keeping him from the constant movement that helps him get free. If that happens in this series, not only with Curry but the other players who make the Golden State motion offense the best in the league, the Warriors are going to have trouble.
  • Can the Warriors bring down Cleveland's three-point field-goal percentage? The Cavaliers are making an impressive 43.5 percent of their threes and if that continues it's going to keep Cleveland in this series. And that percentage is not based on a small sample size. The Cavs have made 45 more three-point shots than the Warriors have in the playoffs. And people wonder why LeBron James is playing so well this postseason? He's got help in the form of shooters who have spread the floor, allowing him to get to the basket easier than ever. People talk a lot about Kyrie Irving but Kevin Love is critical for this team. So far, he's averaging 17.2 points per game in 32 minutes, with 10.4 rebounds per game and a 47.5 shooting percentage from three-point range. If those numbers hold firm in the Finals, the Cavaliers have a real shot.
  • How much coaching is Steve Kerr going to do in the Finals? I have tremendous respect for what he's done for that team and I think the Warriors can only reach their maximum potential with Kerr on the sidelines. Mike Brown is probably a very capable replacement but he's a replacement -- and substitute teachers are never as good as the real thing. Kerr has created a team that is superior on offense and very good on defense and it would be a shame if he couldn't be there to guide it to the end of the season. And it could also be detrimental to the Warriors' chance of capturing the championship.

Who do I think will win? Golden State. This is one of the league's all-time great teams and if Kevin Durant doesn't crack under the pressure of the Finals the Warriors should win. But I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as many people figure. Cleveland is the one team that can match Golden State's three-point production and that's a big key in the modern game. And to beat Golden State, you better score a whole lot of points.

Trail Blazers drubbed again as Kevin Love has NBA record performance in Cleveland

Trail Blazers drubbed again as Kevin Love has NBA record performance in Cleveland

CLEVELAND -- The Trail Blazers' defensive nightmare continues.

Cleveland forward Kevin Love scored an NBA record 34 points in the first quarter -- which included eight three-pointers -- and the Cavaliers stained the Blazers' record book with gaudy numbers Wednesday in a 137-125 rout at Quicken Loans Arena. 

The Blazers (8-9) entered the game with the NBA's second worst defensive rating, just one-tenth below Sacramento, and proceeded to give up a franchise-tying 46 points in the first quarter and a season high in points for the second time during this trip. In addition to Love, LeBron James had a field day, recording his second triple-double of the season: 31 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists. 

Damian Lillard, who vowed before the game to take his game "to another level" had 40 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds as the Blazers lost of the fifth time in the last six games. Four of those loses have included deficits of 20 or more points. 

Love, the Lake Oswego native, finished with 40 points and his 34-point outburst was three off Klay Thompson's NBA record for points in any quarter, which Thompson set two seasons ago in the third quarter against Sacramento. He finished 12-of-20 from the field, 8-of-12 from three-point range and 8-of-8 from the free throw line. 

Love made his first seven shots, including his first six three-pointers, as the Cavs raced to a 26-13 lead just more than four minutes into the game. 

Cleveland (11-2) were playing on four days rest while Portland was coming in the back end of a back-to-back and finishing a five-game swing during which they went 1-4. 

After all the smoke cleared from Love and Cleveland's hot shooting, the Blazers found themselves within striking distance after CJ McCollum made a driving layin with 9:26 left in the second quarter, pulling the Blazers within 51-42. But with Love on the bench, the rest of the Cavaliers remained hot, as Channing Frye hit four three-pointers, JR Smith two and Kyrie Irving two. 

All told, the Cavaliers hit 16 three-pointers in the first half (in 22 attempts), the 16 the most by opponent in Blazers history, surpassing the 14 made by Golden State last March and the 14 made by New York in 2012. Cleveland finished with 21 three-pointers, the most the Blazers have ever allowed. 

The Blazers started Evan Turner in the second half in place of Ed Davis, and a 12-2 run to open the half was enough concern for Cleveland to call a timeout. The Blazers eventually got within 94-83 in the third quarter, but each flurry was met by a surge from James, who recorded his second triple-double early in the fourth quarter. It was his 44th career triple-double. 

Mason Plumlee made 9-of-10 shots for the Blazers and finished with 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. Turner added 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting. 

Next up: New Orleans at Blazers, 7 p.m. Friday (CSN)

 

Is Cleveland's Game 5 approach sustainable?

Is Cleveland's Game 5 approach sustainable?

In the long run, playing the way the Cleveland Cavaliers did Monday night is a prescription for disaster against a good team. But there's only two games left, at most -- so the "long run" is just about over.

The Cavs got a combined 82 points -- 41 each -- from Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Only one other Cleveland player reached double figures and that was J.R. Smith with 10. Irving and James had terrific shooting nights, particularly from three-point range. And although I consider Irving a very good shooter, James is not. This was a hot night by two all-star players against a team without its best defensive player.

And yes, Draymond Green was seriously missed by the Warriors. Golden State's defensive chemistry and cohesiveness was just not the same. Nor could it find the necessary third scorer and playmaker. Green will be back for Game 6, of course -- and it will be interesting to see if he brings some measure of control to his emotions. Remember, if Green gets another flagrant foul in this game, he'd miss a possible Game 7. But he wouldn't be that foolish, would he?

I know Cleveland won this game going away -- which means little in a series when the winning team is always over 100 and the losers are always under 100. Philosophically, I didn't like the way Cleveland played. Winning teams -- great teams -- move the ball, move bodies and get all their players involved. The Cavs did that in the early rounds of the playoffs but threw it in the dumpster when faced with an elimination game.

And they made it work because of great shooting, which comes and goes even with star players. I think that could work again in Game 6, when Cleveland returns home. Usually teams shoot well in their home arena. But sustainable for the rest of the series? I'm not so sure. I just sit back and marvel at how Cleveland wastes the talent of Kevin Love by not involving him in an offensive system of some sort. He's being set up, of course. He's going to be the fall guy if this thing doesn't work out in Cleveland's favor -- taking the blame for LeBron, who has grown tired of taking the losing-in-the-Finals heat.

Cleveland is playing without any real system right now. It's a two-man game and the rest of the guys may as well just pull up a chair, grab a towel and watch. It will probably get the Cavs to a Game 7, but maybe no further. LeBron is back in his old role of coaching this team, which has never worked real well.

On the other hand, Golden State is facing the possibility of being without injured Andrew Bogut, its rim protector, which will help the Cavs, too. And I must say, adding the extra travel day in between the games in the Finals, makes this thing seem like it will never end. And with the real possibility now of going seven games, it's going to be a physical test -- a battle of attrition -- that the Warriors never wanted it to be.

It's up for grabs now. Somehow I got the feeling that Golden State was meant to win in five games. And since that didn't happen, anything can happen.

Game 4: Shaky officiating and some poor Cav decisions

Game 4: Shaky officiating and some poor Cav decisions

Before I get into some specifics about Golden State's win over Cleveland Friday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, let me say something that just has to be said: The officiating by the crew of Danny Crawford, Jason Phillips and Mike Callahan left a lot to be desired. A LOT.

If you happened to record the game, I'd invite you to run any number of plays back and count how many fouls went uncalled. Fouls that would have surely been called in a regular-season contest. It was ridiculous. They weren't even protecting shooters -- which is usually an NBA maxim. And when you overlook so many obvious fouls, it becomes such a random thing when you do actually call a foul. The inconsistency must make it extremely difficult to play in the game. I know it makes it hard to watch a game.

With that off my chest, let's deal with some specifics from this game:

  • There was a lot of gabbing afterward about a little tap below the belt delivered by Draymond Green to LeBron James after a scuffle between the players. Let me just say that when you knock a guy down, then make things worse by disrespecting him by walking over him, it's not surprising you might get hit between the legs as you straddle him. Enough said about that foolishness.
  • James scuffled with Green and Steph Curry in the fourth quarter -- a pretty obvious indication that his frustration level was getting pretty high. He also seemed to be battling teammate Kyrie Irving for shots down the stretch, which should never happen.
  • Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue needs to grab more control over that team. In the fourth quarter it was just James and Irving taking turns, or taking each other's turns, going one-on-one. By now, everyone knows how ineffective that can be.
  • LeBron just hasn't ever seemed to figure out the appropriate balance between making his teammates better and getting his own good shots. It's plagued him his entire career. For as much time as he spends berating his teammates on the court, this man needs coaching more than most superstars do.
  • Speaking of coaching, I'm going to be one of the few to say this because Charles Barkley and I were the only ones who didn't agree with starting Richard Jefferson Friday night: how in the world could any coach decide it's a better idea to start Richard Jefferson than Kevin Love in a Finals game? Love ended up playing just seven seconds more than Jefferson -- which is a joke. Love is an all-star, Jefferson is washed up. I will always think that was a very silly move -- especially with James and Irving doing nothing but playing hero-ball in the fourth quarter, with Love languishing on the bench. Lue will learn real soon that sometimes you get outcoached by someone else and sometimes you outcoach yourself -- which is what he did Friday.
  • I've talked about how good Steve Kerr is as the coach of the Warriors but there's evidence in so many little things Golden State does during a game. Late, when the Cavs were trying to foul on every Warrior possession, Golden State caught the ball before it hit the ground after Cleveland made baskets and immediately got it inbounds to Steph Curry -- the league's best foul shooter. Seems like such a little thing until you see so many other teams fiddle around picking up the ball out of bounds after a make and allowing the defense to get set.
  • Lue didn't give James or Irving a break in the second half and I know a lot of fans -- the same ones who thought Damian Lillard should have played every minute of the second half of every playoff game -- think that's proper. But it isn't. These guys aren't robots.

Report: Kevin Love likely plays, comes off bench for Cavaliers in Game 4

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USATI

Report: Kevin Love likely plays, comes off bench for Cavaliers in Game 4

There were two big questions about Kevin Love after the Cavaliers picked up their first win of the 2016 NBA Finals:

Would Love be cleared from the league’s concussion protocol for Game 4?

Would Tyronn Lue put him back in the starting lineup?

Yes. Then no. That according to Jason Llyod of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Kevin Love is expected to play Friday and it’s likely he will come off the bench in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, league sources told the Beacon Journal.

Love still has another medical examination he must pass on Friday before he is cleared from the league’s concussion protocol, but he took part in some on-court shooting drills Thursday and the team is privately confident he will be available to play. Coach Tyronn Lue would not discuss Love’s role on Thursday, insisting he hadn’t given it much thought. While one source stressed no final decision has been made yet, it’s likely at this point Love will be a reserve for the first time since April 14, 2010 – the final game of his second year in the league.

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Kevin Love remains limited Thursday

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USATI

Kevin Love remains limited Thursday

Kevin Love has resumed non-contact basketball activities, which could be the final step before the Cleveland Cavaliers get their starting power forward back in these NBA Finals.

Love will not be cleared to play on Thursday, according to Chris Hayes of Cleveland.com. He did participate in basketball drills Thursday morning. 

Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue says it takes 24 hours after that workout before any determination can be made on Love's status.

Love missed Cleveland's 120-90 win over Golden State in Game 3 on Wednesday night because of a concussion. He was hurt in Game 2 when Harrison Barnes made contact with Love in the second quarter on Sunday and has to complete a number of steps mandated by the NBA concussion protocol before he could be cleared to play again.

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Golden State loses another Game 3 -- everybody overreact!

Golden State loses another Game 3 -- everybody overreact!

Seven-game series are the home for media overreaction in all sports, but it seems the NBA is a hotbed for it. You know, the team that won the most recent game always seems to be the favorite.

Take Wednesday night's Cleveland thrashing of the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. All those people who were beating up the Cavaliers when the Warriors jumped out to a 2-0 series lead are now singing the praises of the Cavs.

And even with all the "experts" being paraded out on my TV screen, I haven't yet seen anybody point out that Golden State has lost the third game of every series it has played this year. Lost to Houston, to Portland, to Oklahoma City and now to Cleveland. Obviously, it's not a great achievement to thump these guys on your home court in Game 3. The Warriors seem to make a habit of not playing very well in that game, for whatever reason.

They've probably had to fight complaceny a lot when they've had so many easy wins this season. It's only natural to come out a little flat once in a while.

The biggest overreaction I heard Wednesday night was the statement that Richard Jefferson should just automatically be in the starting lineup for Cleveland in Game 4, even if Kevin Love is healthy and ready to play. As if he was the reason the Cavs won Game 3. Seriously. Jefferson, 35 going on 45, was the only Cleveland starter in the 30-point win with a plus-minus under 21. He was plus-11. And if stats aren't your thing, just watch him. I'm hard-pressed to think of one thing he can do that Love can't do better. Certainly, he doesn't defend better or score better or rebound better.

Look, Cleveland just played with much more intensity and care Wednesday and Golden State didn't bring much to the table -- as has been the custom in Game 3s this season. Stuff happens -- and it's happened way too often in this season's playoffs, when 20- and even 30-point routs are becoming the norm.

The so-called Splash Brothers have yet to show up for this little series and if they ever do, Cleveland's in trouble. Otherwise, it's probably important to point out that the Warriors still have homecourt advantage and that seems to be a very big deal in any season's playoffs.

But maybe I'm overreacting.

 

Kevin Love will not be cleared to play in Game 3 Wednesday

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USATI

Kevin Love will not be cleared to play in Game 3 Wednesday

Kevin Love was on the court for a portion of the Cavaliers’ morning shootaround Wednesday before a critical Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

But it was Richard Jefferson in a starter’s jersey at the end of practice. Channing Fryegot some run with the first unit, too. It will be those two who will be asked to step up with Love out — he has been told he will not be cleared for Wednesday night’s game, reports Marc Stein of ESPN:

Love did go through part of shootaround with the team but was off the floor when the media was allowed in Wednesday, the team reported. He has been officially listed questionable for Game 3.

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Kevin Love travels with Cavaliers following potential concussion

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USATI

Kevin Love travels with Cavaliers following potential concussion

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love has been cleared to travel after suffering a potential concussion in Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

A team spokesman says in an email that Love, who was injured in the first half of Sunday’s game, was with his teammates Monday on the flight from San Francisco to Cleveland.

Love was struck in the back of his head by Golden State forward Harrison Barnes while fighting for a rebound. Love crumpled to the floor in pain but returned to the game.

However, he removed himself in the third quarter after feeling dizzy and was taken to the locker room for tests and observation.

The Cavs said he was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol. His status for Wednesday’s Game 3 isn’t known.

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