Big blow: Love out for Game 7

Stamford Advocate (Sunday) - - Sports -

CLEVE­LAND — Kevin Love won’t be able to help LeBron James and the Cava­liers in Game 7 against the Celtics.

Love was placed in the NBA’s con­cus­sion pro­to­col and the All-Star for­ward will miss Sun­day’s se­ries fi­nale of the Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals, a per­sonal blow and yet an­other chal­lenge for Cleve­land to over­come.

The Cava­liers said Love, who in­ad­ver­tently bashed heads with Celtics rookie Jayson Ta­tum in the first quar­ter of Game 6, ex­pe­ri­enced con­cus­sion-like symp­toms Sat­ur­day be­fore the team’s flight to Bos­ton.

Mo­ments be­fore the Cavs sent a news re­lease up­dat­ing Love’s sta­tus, coach Ty­ronn Lue held a con­fus­ing tele­con­fer­ence dur­ing which he said the 29-yearold was still be­ing eval­u­ated and there was a pos­si­bil­ity he could play.

How­ever, like ev­ery­thing else in this er­ratic, con­vo­luted sea­son for Cleve­land, things changed quickly.

Now, the Cavs will be with­out their sec­ond-lead­ing scorer and top re­bounder as they try to win their fourth straight con­fer­ence ti­tle against a younger team that is 10-0 at home in the play­offs.

Love is av­er­ag­ing 13.9 points and 10.0 re­bounds in 17 play­off starts, and he’s the No. 2 scor­ing op­tion for the Cavs, who have leaned on James harder than ever this post­sea­son.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens be­lieves the Cava­liers are dan­ger­ous even with­out Love.

“We’ll have to pre­pare our team to play well, re­gard­less of who plays for them,” Stevens said. “Ob­vi­ously, they’ll run a lit­tle bit less of the Love stuff, and more of the other stuff … prob­a­bly more op­por­tu­ni­ties for LeBron, more op­por­tu­ni­ties for (Kyle) Korver and (J.R.) Smith, more op­por­tu­ni­ties off those pick and rolls. All of them were very ef­fec­tive for them last night.”

There is sta­tis­ti­cal data to sup­port that the Cava­liers have been more ef­fec­tive in the se­ries when Love has been out. But while Cleve­land may be bet­ter de­fen­sively, Love’s shot-mak­ing abil­ity helps the Cavs spread the floor and open driv­ing lanes for James.

“You can switch more,” Lue said. “I think when Jeff (Green) is in there play­ing that po­si­tion, it makes you more ver­sa­tile de­fen­sively. But we miss his re­bound­ing. We miss his of­fen­sive abil­ity. It kind of all can­cels out.”

James scored 46 points in Fri­day’s vic­tory, his lat­est jaw-drop­ping per­for­mance in what has been per­haps the great­est post­sea­son of the su­per­star’s sto­ried ca­reer. James is av­er­ag­ing 33.9 points, 8.9 re­bounds and 8.8 as­sists and has had seven 40-point games and twobuzzer beat­ers.

The 33-year-old’s next chal­lenge: find­ing a way to beat the Celtics, who have played at an­other level on their home floor.

It’s in­ter­est­ing that as James tries to ad­vance to his eighth straight NBA Fi­nals — a feat ac­com­plished only by leg­endary Celtics cen­ter Bill Rus­sell and three other Bos­ton play­ers — that Love will be in street clothes on Cleve­land’s bench and Kyrie Irv­ing will be sit­ting on Bos­ton’s.

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