CLEVELAND -- Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has improved his level of play since joining the team through a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the summer of 2014, but as of late, the biggest growth in his game is in maturity.
Love took on a reduced role within the offense when he agreed to a long-term extension with the Cavaliers in the summer of 2015 after they came up two wins short in the NBA Finals, and did so for the good of the team.
“That’s just the maturity of Kevin over these last couple years,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “Winning’s first. That’s most important, and he understands. When you get to the playoffs, it’s all about winning.”
Currently, the Cavaliers are 8-0 in postseason play, and Love remains committed to doing whatever is necessary to help the team, even if that means finding ways to impact the game other than by shooting the ball.
“It’s just growth, growth for Kevin, growth for this team, and it’s all about winning,” Lue said. “When you come here, it’s all about one thing, and that’s just trying to win a championship. However you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it. It’s about sacrifice, and scoring the basketball is not the most important thing.
“It’s all of the small things that Kevin’s been doing for us that goes uncharted. Offensively, he hasn’t gotten a lot of shots, a lot of touches. That’s on me to get him more involved, but for what we had going offensively, it was working. We’ve got to stay with it to get to 8-0, where we are now. He understands that, and the next series could be totally different.”
After averaging 15.5 points per game against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Love saw noticeable drops in attempts and points in the four-game sweep of the Toronto Raptors en route to the Cavaliers’ third straight trip the conference finals.
However, his made attempts per game, 4.3, remained the same, while his shooting percentage from the field increased from 41.5 to 44.7 and his three-point percentage remained at .400. Additionally, Love stole three passes over the four games against Toronto.
But as the Cavaliers prepare to take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, which get underway in Boston Wednesday night, Lue will do what he can to make sure Love gets more opportunities.
“Last year, I thought Kevin and Kyrie did a really good job of carrying us those first couple rounds,” Lue said. “Detroit, when they were small with Morris, we really took advantage of that. Atlanta, in the second round, Kevin was really great in that series.
“The playoffs is a game of matchups, and that’s why Toronto went out and got Ibaka, to try and slow Kevin down because they had matchup problems last year with Scola and Patterson and those guys. He really took advantage of those guys. That’s why they went out and got Ibaka and those guys, to try and slow Kevin down.
“Maybe we didn’t feature Kevin enough against Ibaka. Maybe we showed him too much respect, and that’s on me, but next round, I’ve got to do a better job of getting Kevin involved and establishing Kevin.”