The Cleveland Cavaliers enter game three of the 2016 NBA Finals with their backs firmly against the wall. LeBron James and co. are in a rough 2-0 hole to the defending champion Golden State Warriors and face a near certain playoff death – a deficit just three teams have survived to win a title in the Finals before.
It’s likely an uphill climb the Cavs welcome with the next two games at home at Quicken Loans Arena, but the challenge got even stiffer on Wednesday, when news broke that star power forward Kevin Love would be unable to take the court.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 8, 2016
Love suffered a concussion in game two’s loss in Oakland, and despite making the flight back with the team after the loss, has still not been cleared to play.
There were early indications that Love may not be available for the crucial game three, as he wasn’t seen taking the court on Tuesday for the team’s shoot around. Love is reportedly “frustrated” with the decision to hold him out and has been informed that the earliest he will be able to play again in this series is game four on Friday night.
Kevin Love is “really frustrated” by the Cavs’ insistence that he sits out tonight’s Game 3, according to one source close to the situation.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 8, 2016
Love has never been known as anything more than a passable defender, but he was one of Cleveland’s few bright spots in game one. Game two didn’t see him showing up on either side of the court, but he did spend some time at both the four and five spot, which helped the Cavs’ rebounding, outside shooting and lineup versatility – at least on paper.
Many experts and fans alike have called for Love’s benching in this series due to his shaky defense and inconsistent offense, but it’s still arguable that losing Love will hurt Cleveland dramatically. At the very least, the absence of Love puts added pressure on both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and may demand that the team’s supporting cast step up and provide some extra rebounding and scoring.
That may be a lot to ask given the poor play of Cleveland’s star players to this point, while their bench has yet to show up in this series.
As for specific Love replacements, the Cavs can go in a number of directions, with Channing Frye, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov all in line to see increased playing time. Mozgov would be dusted off after spending very little time on the floor through the first two games, while Thompson should see the bulk of his time at center. Frye could see an enhanced role, as well, provided he can finally start chipping in offensively.
LeBron James could also help the team out by playing power forward more, should the Cavs continue to try to run with the Warriors’ small ball lineup. Efforts to keep up with that lineup have not fared well through two contests, however.
Game 3 Odds
At this time, Bovada still lists the Warriors as -1.5 favorites and even with the Love news, that may not change. However, with Love out, there is no denying the Cavs lose a skilled player who could have provided a considerably boost as an outside shooter, rebounder and passer. Love never helped Cleveland’s defense, but they may not have enough extra offense to make up for this hit.
It’s still worth noting that Cleveland won 30+ home games during the regular season and didn’t lose once at Quicken Loans Arena to this point during the playoffs, though. That being said, the Love news does not help make a bet in favor of the Cavs look any better. Bet on the Cavaliers at your own risk tonight.