The Cleveland Cavaliers currently trail the Golden State Warriors 2-0 in the NBA Finals. Through two games, the Warriors have destroyed the Cavs in just about every aspect of the game as they have cruised to victories of 15 and 33 points, respectively. There is no one particular reason the Warriors are blowing the Cavs out, other than that they are just better, but one reason that really sticks out is how the Cavs are using one Kevin Love.
Love has taken 24 field goal attempts in just shy of two games (he left Game 2 in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the head from Harrison Barnes). Of those 24 attempts, 15 of them have come from inside the three point line. Love has made just six of his 15 attempts from two-point range for an unflattering 40 percent, which has pretty much been the story all playoffs. In 16 playoff games this year, Love is shooting a repulsive 34.8 percent from two-point range. That percentage is highlighted by a dismal 35.1 percent at the rim. Love is making just 35 percent of his lay ups. Emphasis on "35 percent" and "lay ups."
During the regular season, Love shot 46.7 percent from two-point range, including 55 percent at the rim. While the 55 percent is considerably lower than his career average of 59.3 percent, it is still worlds better than his 35 percent in the playoffs. Even with his horrendous close-range shooting, Love has managed to stay effective in these playoffs by shooting 43.6 percent from three point territory, while shooting a high volume of threes. Because of his high volume output and his accuracy, Love has managed to keep his effective field goal percentage at 49.1 percent, which is about on par with his 49.9 percent from the regular season.
http://www.scout.com/cleveland-sports/story/1675941-kevin-love-diagnosed... Basic math tells you that it is a very bad idea to feed the ball to Love inside, but for some reason, the Cavs insist on doing it. Time and time again, the Cavs will feed the ball to Love in the post where he pounds the ball several times, and more often than not he gains no ground and forces himself into a tough shot. I understand that the Cavs are trying to get one of their guys whom they believe to be a superstar involved in the game (they oftentimes discuss him working "inside out"), but there's better ways to do it. With as frequently as the Cavs are turning the ball over in The Finals, they cannot afford to waste possessions on Love inside.
Every time I see someone on the Cavs toss the ball into Love with his back to the basket, I cringe. With the slightly smaller Harrison Barnes on him, Love has failed to move him at all while Barnes has done a tremendous job forcing Love into a bad shots. When Love is taking the shot, the Cavs lose a guy who can contest on the boards, this makes it easier for Golden State to get the rebound and get out in transition where they are absolutely deadly.
In last years' Finals, LeBron James dominated. The Warriors did not have an answer for him, as he led all players in the series in points, rebounds, and assists—something that had never been done before. The only silver lining for the Warriors was that James scored a lot of points on a high volume of shots, and they held him to a low field goal percentage. The narrative all season was that if the Cavs had Love and Irving, that they would have beat the Warriors. If Love and Irving were there to spot up behind the arc when James took it to the hoop, things may have played out different. This year, though, the Cavs are refraining from James taking it to the hoop every possession, and are trying to spread the workload out between all of their Big Three. It isn't working.
In this series, against this Warriors team, James is the only superstar, and that is how the Cavs have to play. The Warriors have a handful of guys who can guard Irving and Love, they still do not have one who can contain James. Love and Irving are proving a lot of people right who said that the Cavs were better off without them in the Finals given the mismatches they would have created.
This is not meant to be a Kevin Love bash party. I love Kevin Love. All you have to do is check the numbers to see that the Cavs are 5.5 points better when Love is on the court than when he is off to know that he makes the team better. I think when used correctly, Love is what makes the Cavs one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA. If you watched any of the Cavaliers games against the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, or Toronto Raptors, you are aware that his spacing ability and his shooting from downtown was key to the Cavs' dominance. I see people bashing Love on Twitter a lot, and I do think it is unfair. He may struggle against the Warriors for match up purposes, but the Cavs are required to face 28 other teams throughout the year, and for those games, Love makes the Cavs great.
It is easy to say, "but the Finals is what matters," but you cannot build a team based around the potential of playing a certain team. The Cavs did that in 2010 when they signed Shaq to guard Dwight Howard, and they got bounced from the playoffs by the Boston Celtics before they had a chance to take on Orlando. What the Cavs and Kevin Love have is an ego problem. The Cavs paid Love superstar money, and they want him to perform like a superstar. Kevin Love has proven in the past he has superstar ability, and he wants to perform like a superstar. On this Cavs team, however, Kevin Love is not a superstar. He is a really good role player who is essential to the Cavs' success, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if the Cavs do not stop wasting possessions on Love inside, just to try and get him going, this is going to be a quick four-game sweep. Love could potentially miss Wednesday's Game 3 in Cleveland if he is not cleared from concussion protocol. While last year Kevin Love getting injured was part of the curse, him missing time in this series could end up as a blessing. The odds of the Cavs attempting to feed the ball to Channing Frye in the post at any point are very, very slim.