by Kyle Lewandowski
The Cleveland Cavaliers are a team searching for a true identity. One of their larger flaws at the moment is the lack of depth in the big man rotation. Things didn’t get any easier last week when center Tristan Thompson went down with a calf strain that will sideline him for the better part of four weeks.
The Cavs opened the regular season with not Thompson, but Love starting at the center position and Tuesday night he showed exactly what head coach Ty Lue envisioned upon making that decision.
“I think he did a good job of posting up with a purpose, getting physical, not bailing the [Bucks] out because they were small,” Lue started on Love’s performance. “Then he also got to the free throw line. He got some offensive rebounds and he was able to get fouled. I just thought he was really aggressive on the block and on postups, which we need him to do.”
The desire for Love to be aggressive right from the jump was a common theme in the locker room postgame.
The 10-year veteran out of UCLA said it was all about getting right to it.
“I just wanted to establish myself early in the paint, maybe get some easy buckets,” Love said.
Love came out sluggish in November averaging only 9.3 points, albeit in a small sample size of a mere three games. The touch from deep had gone missing. The big man connected on just four of 13 from long distance in the three contests and it was something Love was conscience of going into Tuesday night.
“I felt myself drifting a little bit in the last few games,” Love began. “I thought we did a good job of being aggressive. We all played in the paint and got into the bonus early. I think that translated throughout the entire game and the aggression was there.”
Kevin Love attempted exactly zero three-pointers on Tuesday night for the first time all season while putting together his best offensive output thus far.
Love finished with 32 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the field. He snatched 16 boards and connected on 14 of his 16 free throw attempts.
For this Cavalier offense to be most effective, someone needs to shoulder the load down low and pose a true threat that opposing teams need to sag down to defend every once in a while.
The threat of Love as an inside scoring option creates more open looks on the perimeter for guys like JR Smith, who had his best game of the season by far against the Bucks, and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.
When the Cavs are knocking down those open jumpers it puts pressure on the defense to close out on those shooters which, in turn, creates those driving lanes that Derrick Rose and LeBron James love so much.
LeBron stated that tonight was the type of performance the team needs from their best big.
“We need Kevin to play like that all the time,” James said. “And tonight he was great.”
It will be interesting to see how much the Cavs attempt to establish Love early in games going forward, as they did so often last season, due to his ability to open up the offense around him.
Love rebounded brilliantly from Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks, his worst performance on the young season, but that could have been an affect from the illness that landed him in the hospital that night.
In the locker room after the game a reporter jokingly asked what the hospital had put in the IV he receive upon arrival.
“I don’t know,” Love laughed. “Whatever they gave me, I might go back.”