Kevin Love was a legitimate part of the “Big Three” for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the regular season, averaging 19.0 points and 11.1 rebounds per game.
However, through two rounds of the playoffs, his production has fallen off.
In Cleveland’s opening round sweep over the Indiana Pacers, Love posted 15.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. But, after hoisting up 14.5 shots per game in the regular season, he attempted just 10.3 per contest against Indiana.
That trend then continued in the second-round sweep of the Toronto Raptors in which the 28-year-old averaged 12.0 points and 9.0 rebounds a game while attempting just 9.5 field goals per contest.
While he has fallen off the radar due to his team’s success, Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue knows that in order for his team to defend their title, Love needs to be a major part of the offense on a nightly basis. And he also knows that it’s his job to make sure that happens so that the team doesn’t depend solely on Kyrie Irving and LeBron James every time down the floor.
"Just because [Love's] not scoring the basketball or whatever, defensively and rebounding the basketball he's been great," Lue said Thursday via ESPN. "For me, some of it's my fault because we haven't really featured him a lot because of the matchups we had on other teams.”
"He's been great," Lue continued. “His whole mindset is winning, and that's what it's all about in the playoffs. In this next series, we have some matchups he can definitely take advantage of, and it's on me to make sure we do that.”
In Cleveland’s Game 4 sweep-clinching victory over the Raptors in the second round, James and Irving scored or assisted on 92 of the team’s 109 points while Love went 2-of-7 from the field for five points with six rebounds.
That’s probably not going to cut it against a team like the Golden State Warriors, who are also a perfect 8-0 in the West.
Love doesn’t seem to care that he’s not filling up the stat sheet, though, which is a positive.
"I told him, 'We're 8-0. I don't mind it,'" Love said on Thursday via ESPN. "If I get five or six shots, if I get 15 shots, it don't matter to me, as long as we win. I've been in this position before; we're having success, so I'm happy. Feel good.”
But, Lue vows to get his star in the mix early and often in the next round, no matter if their opponent is the Boston Celtics or the Washington Wizards.
"Maybe we didn't feature Kevin enough against Toronto, maybe we showed 'em too much respect, and that's on me. But next round I've got to do a better job of really getting Kevin involved and really establishing Kevin,” Lue noted.
Winning solves all problems, and right now, no one is getting on Love’s lack of production because of Cleveland’s success. However, if his role continues to diminish in the upcoming rounds, questions might begin to swirl.