LeBron James is the beating heart of the Cleveland Cavaliers, powering the machine which is vying for its first title in its 46-year history.
But if Lebron’s the team’s heart, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are the lungs which keep Lebron pumping – offering the majority of support for the Hall of Fame lock.
Love, in particular, could be the deciding factor in this year’s Finals series against Golden State, depending on whether he can be an influence for a team in desperate need of production from anybody but LeBron.
Where’s the Love?
Ever since joining the Cavaliers after his time in Minnesota, Kevin Love has been talked down as a legitimate NBA star.
Whether it’s talk of him being a stat stuffing rebounder, but not a winner, or the mention of his defensive incapabilities – the man from Santa Monica isn’t getting too many props.
However, there are only a few players in the league, perhaps only one or two who have truly rounded games. One of those players is playing beside him.
Other stars aren’t subject to the vilification that Love is – Irving is a clear example, who gets plenty of good press despite notable flaws in his defensive game, resulting in Tyronn Lue having to ‘hide’ him defensively against other elite guards.
The reasons for disliking Love are plentiful for internet trolls sitting behind their keyboards – and they often come down to the comparison of Love to some of the other elite big guys in the league.
He’s not the most athletic, like DeAndre Jordan. He isn’t an elite defender, like Andrew Bogut. He doesn’t boast the post moves to dominate the paint, like DaMarcus Cousins. But if those who question him would look at what he does do instead of what he doesn’t they might think differently.
He shoots over 44% from the three point line, a much higher average than most other forwards. He’s automatic from the charity stripe, unlike the Andre Drummonds and DeAndre Jordans of the league. He’s also squeaky clean when it comes to turning the ball over, with only the odd pass going astray.
Put simply, Kevin Love isn’t getting the love he deserves. At least, not from NBA fans…
Could Love Decide the Finals?
Whilst most Golden State fans will be fearing a LeBron James explosion in this series, it’s Love who could prove to be the silent killer for Cleveland – depending on how well he shoots the ball.
The fact is, when the 27-year-old shoots the ball well, more often than not he emerges on the right side of a victory.
It’s been a clear factor throughout the playoffs so far, especially during the first two rounds, when Cleveland went 8-0, hitting three after three in the process. Of course, this wasn’t all Love’s doing, but he played a major part in that three-point barrage, which has now begun to stutter.
But even though he’s not been firing as well as he has done in recent games, LeBron is still supportive of his duo of sidekicks.
“We wouldn’t be at this point today going to the Finals without those two,” said James, via Inquisitr.com
“Throughout the first three rounds, they’ve been the reason why we’ve played at such a high level. They’ve accepted the challenge. They wanted to get back to this moment.
"Ky being out seven months, this guy [Love] doing rehab for three-and-a-half months on his shoulder, they just had so much built up anxiety or rage or excitement or whatever the case may be throughout the whole process.”
Other role players will also have an impact, the likes of Channing Frye, who’s proved a smart acquisition for the Cavs, and Tristan Thompson will also be essential cogs for them. However, coaching will also be a vitally important aspect of Cleveland’s championship hopes.
Can Lue bring the Love to Ohio?
There were numerous question marks surrounding the departure of David Blatt, and when Tyronn Lue was sounded out as his successor, questions turned into straight up confusion.
This is a man who had no previous head coaching experience, and despite playing in the league and having two Championship rings to his name, wasn’t considered a big name for the Cavaliers. However, following a successful regular season and a quickfire start to their postseason, it seems that Lue might just know what he’s doing.
What’s more, he’s appeared to be something of a good luck charm for a team that notably lost Kyrie and Love in the postseason last time around, with a full roster backing his case this year.
He even knows just how to keep his team in good shape offensively, claiming that the key for keeping Lebron happy is using Love and Irving effectively.
“When Kyrie and Kevin are playing at a high level, it opens the floor for LeBron," Lue said, per Cleveland.com.
"We know LeBron is the best player in the world, and I believe that, and at times there are going to be times when he has to take the game over.
"But now he understands the bigger picture and understands that the more the team plays, the more the team performs, the easier it is for him, and the easier it is for us."
It might be quite a claim to put LeBron top of the list for this season, especially with Steph Curry claiming the first unanimous MVP vote with some stunning performances, but he’s not far off the mark.
Lue, Love, Irving and LeBron know that the Golden State Warriors will be no pushovers, quite the opposite, but if they can all calibrate their efforts and keep themselves rolling, they’ll no doubt stand a chance against them.
But whilst you may be waiting for Lebron to seal the deal, don’t forget to send some love Kevin’s way…