The Cleveland Cavaliers have everything at stake when they face the Golden State Warriors in game six of the NBA Finals tonight at the Quicken Loans Arena.
If they lose, their season is over and the Golden State Warriors will be crowned back-to-back NBA champions. If they win, they will force a game seven in Oakland on Sunday and will battle it out in a winner-takes-all contest where the Ohio franchise could secure their first ever NBA title.
In order to do that, the Cavs need more from one of their Big Three: Kevin Love.
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LeBron James and Kyrie Irving combined to drop 82 points on the Dubs during game five, but Love could only register two points and three rebounds during the victory.
King James might be trying to take over the series, but he knows they need Love to step up in a big way to overcome the Warriors and a returning Draymond Green.
“We definitely need Kev to play better. We want him to play better,” James said. “But we don’t want to add more stress on him or added pressure. We just want him to go out and play. Just let it hang out.
“He needs to be aggressive to help us try to send this game back to Golden State,” James continued. “I think he’s looking forward to the challenge. I think he’s looking forward to the moment. We definitely need him. He’s too big of a piece to our puzzle.”
Love is struggling to contribute offensively in the Finals, averaging 8.8 points and six rebounds and shooting 37.1 percent from the field and 28.6 percent on three-pointers.
In the regular season, the former Minnesota Timberwolves forward averaged a fraction under a double-double with an average of 16 points and 9.9 boards a night.
Still, not everyone can shoot the rock on every possession. Love's stat line from game five was partly as a result of his teammates catching fire and he knew he had to play his role.
“It was just kind of – I know it’s funny to say – but run in the corner, let those guys do their thing, and on the defensive end try to apply myself as much as I could,” Love said.
His coach, Tyronn Lue, has also defended his power forward, insisting he has been a massive contributor in other key areas for the championship hopefuls.
“Kevin was great. Defensively, he did a lot of good things,” Lue said. “Offensively, we have two guys that did something that hasn’t been done in NBA history – two guys score 40 points in a single (Finals) game. So there wasn’t a lot of room or a lot of shots for a lot of other guys because they had a special moment.”
How will Love cope with a returning and determined Green during game six? With the world watching, the pressure is on.