CLEVELAND — Kevin Love went through practice today with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but he has not yet been cleared to participate in Game 4.
According to Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, after going through practice today, Love has to wait 24 hours before being able to clear the NBA concussion protocol.
And if Love is able to go? Well, that’s a trickier decision.
While it’s obviously a nuanced situation, at the end of the day the Cavs are 0-2 in these Finals with Love in the starting line-up. So if Love can return for Game 4, would he immediately regain his starting spot? Or would Richard Jefferson stay in Lue’s top five, like he was in Cleveland’s big Game 3 victory?
“Haven’t thought about it yet,” said Lue today after Cavs practice. “Obviously trying to get Kevin healthy is the most important thing right now. We’re just trying to get him back.”
A three-time NBA All-Star, Love started 77 games for the Cavaliers during the regular season, averaging 16.0 points per game and 9.9 rebounds per game. Through the Cavs’ first 16 postseason games, Love averaged 16.5 ppg and 9.4 rpg, shooting 43.6 percent from 3-point range. Love started Games 1 and 2 for the Cavaliers in The Finals, games the Warriors won by a combined 48 points.
Love was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol during the second half of Game 2, following an accidental elbow from Warriors forward Harrison Barnes. After initially going down to the ground, Love stayed in the game, and played briefly in the third quarter before leaving after experiencing dizziness.
With Love ruled out for Game 3 shortly before tipoff, the Cavs started Richard Jefferson in his place and moved LeBron James over to Love’s usual power forward spot. Jefferson finished with nine points and eight rebounds, and the Cavs were able to control the paint, finishing with 20-rebound edge over the Warriors and winning the game handily, 120-90.
Immediately following Game 3, when asked if Love, if healthy, would regain his starting spot in Game 4, Lue demurred on making a decision. “Do I have to tell you?” he asked rhetorically. “I’m not going to tell you.”
According to Jefferson, Love loved the team’s effort. “The first thing [Love] did,” Jefferson said, “he looked at me and was like, ‘Give me a hug. Give me a hug, way to play!’ That’s what it is. It’s not about him, he wants this for the team. He wants to be out there and help. And I’m a 36-year-old man and I hugged him back. ‘Hey, you just get healthy. You get right. And we’re going to be right here with you.'”
“We definitely miss [Love’s] rebounding, miss his post presence, miss his three-point shooting,” said Lue. “We want him back but he has to take the steps necessary to get back. So we’re just staying positive.”