No Kevin Love, no problem!
The Cleveland Cavaliers pulled within 2-1 in their 2016 NBA Finals series against the Golden State Warriors after cruising to a 120-90 win in Game 3 on Wednesday night at the Quicken Loans Arena.
The Cavaliers played without one of their three superstars, as Love was ruled out due to concussion. It was a huge loss for the Cavs at first glance because they have their backs against the wall, but Love’s absence proved to be a blessing in disguise for Cleveland.
Good Defense Leads To Explosive Offensive Attack
Love is averaging 16.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game in the 2016 NBA Playoffs, but it remains no secret the former All-Star is a liability on defense, especially if he is playing against versatile power forwards like Draymond Green.
Green torched the Cavaliers in the first two games of the series, averaging 22.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. He exposed Love and erupted for 28 points in their 110-77 blowout win in Game 2.
But against LeBron James on Wednesday night, the former Michigan State standout was a non-factor, finishing with just six points in 36 minutes.
With the Cavaliers playing better defense with a faster frontline of James and Thompson, they had an explosive start, building a 33-16 lead in the first 12 minutes. Their defense also made Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson work for their shots, which set the tone for the entire match.
LeBron James, Kyrie Irving Took Over
Without Love, James and Irving knew they had to take over, and the All-Star power forward’s absence just gave them more room to operate without the need to make their third superstar happy.
James was clearly in attack mode, as he finished with 32 points on 14-for-26 shooting and added 11 rebounds along with six assists. Irving was looking for his shots, and it paid dividends. The superstar point guard racked up 30 points, including 16 points in the opening period.
Role Players Stepped Up When The Cavs Need Them The Most
Richard Jefferson started in place of Love, and the veteran did not disappoint. The 35-year-old, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds, played much younger than his age, providing the intensity on both ends of the floor for the Cavaliers.
Tristan Thompson did the dirty work, knowing that his usual frontcourt partner is out. The do-it-all forward finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
On the other hand, J.R. Smith finally showed up, scoring 20 points with five three pointers after just tallying a total of eight markers in the first two games.
Should the Cavaliers Start Kevin Love When He Returns?
Love is expected to suit up in Game 4 on Friday, which will fuel debate in the coming days. Should Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue start Love in Game 4?
Surely, the Cavaliers have more firepower on offense with Love on the floor, but sticking to Game 3’s starting lineup is the logical choice to make. Set the tone again, then play Love with the second unit to sustain their offensive attack.
Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, the Cavaliers are back in the series.
Watch the highlights of Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals below.