In every playoff series, LeBron James is going to have a handful of games where he’s utterly unstoppable and goes for some ridiculous stat line like 45-12-14 just because he can and because his team needs him to be everywhere all the time. The Cavs found out how far LeBron alone can take them in the first round, when he singlehandledly kept up with the Indiana Pacers, but barely, until a few of his teammates decided to show up for Game 7. Still, it took until Game 1 of the second round for any teammate to touch 20 points. Someone else needed to step up. Thankfully, Kevin Love finally looks alive.
Even if Love does not want to play center and match up with Jonas Valanciunas, Tyronn Lue’s decision to play Love at the five unlocks so much of Cleveland’s offense. Valanciunas is going to get his touches inside, and Love is going to have to work on the defensive end, but as Game 2 showed, the Cavs are at their best when Love is an active part of their offense. A week ago, his thumb was all fucked up and he was getting destroyed by Thaddeus Young, but now, after a 31-point, 11-board evening of destroying smaller Raptors defenders, he looks like the legitimate second scoring option the Cavaliers desperately need him to be.
Now that his thumb appears to be working, Love is finally doing what he does best, which is score in the post on smaller dudes. The reason why Lue has Love playing center is to move Valanciunas or Jakob Poeltl out of the lane where they’re most comfortable and force them to defend pick and rolls in space. When Love pops, he can hit most reasonably open threes at a good clip. When he rolls, he’s one of the game’s most comfortable post scorers. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are not going to stop him in the lane. All he has to do is run his action and trust LeBron to make the right decisions (LeBron had 14 assists last night because he always makes the right decision.)
Love’s 21 shots were his most since Christmas Day, and he and James looked more connected than they have in months. The Raptors are fucked if this keeps up, which it will. Congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers for figuring it out at the last possible moment, and for heading towards their season’s peak, which will be losing to the Warriors in the Finals again.