INDEPENDENCE: Kevin Love was busy working on his suddenly missing shooting touch at Cleveland Clinic Courts on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
In the shots went, one by one, consistently, nearly without effort, and without signs of injury — unlike the past two games of the Eastern Conference finals for Love. A good start to the series for the Cavaliers’ power forward gave way to struggles in Toronto against the Raptors. Needless to say, Love didn’t exactly have fun in the Great White North.
In the Cavs’ two losses in the Eastern Conference finals that evened the series at 2-2, Love shot 4-of-23 overall and 3-of-11 from behind the 3-point line. He showed his obvious frustration at that fact in Game 4 when several 3-pointers rimmed out or rattled in, but did not drop. Love’s problems were so noticeable that coach Tyronn Lue elected to play forward Channing Frye (12 points, six rebounds) in the fourth quarter over Love. Lue had little problem playing Frye in that situation.
“No, he understood that Chan [Channing Frye] was playing well,” Lue said of Love, who had also hurt his knee in the third quarter when he stepped on the foot of an official, “and I just decided to ride with Chan because he was playing so good at the time, and Kevin understands that.”
That’s what Raptors coach Dwane Casey sees too.
“No, I don’t think so,” he said when asked if he thought Love was rattled. “I just think that Channing Frye is shooting the ball extremely well. Love missed some open shots that we’ve got to figure out to make sure that we stay with him. But Channing Frye is a hot player right now … this time of year, no matter who you are, you’re going to put your best players out there on the floor, the guys that are producing no matter what. You’re not really thinking big picture right now. You’re thinking about winning the basketball game.”
Frye contributed to erasing an 18-point deficit the Cavs faced at one point and helped give the team a real chance to bring home the win. The teams played vastly different on their respective home courts. The Cavs dicttated pace at Quicken Loans Arena, and the Raptors muddled the speed of the game at the Air Canada Centre.
“It’s just part of the game. If it’s your shot, you have to take it, and you have to take it with confidence,” Lue said of Love’s struggles. “Toronto in the first two games when we played at home, they made a conscious effort of just taking us off the 3-point line, so we were able to get 106 paint points in those two games. Now they’re clogging the paint and they’re giving us open 3-point shots. We’ve just got to knock them down.”
As a team, the Cavs struggled to make those shots, connecting on 27-of-82 for 33 percent. For that reason, Lue didn’t lay blame on one player.
“We just missed shots. It’s part of the game. He’s been playing great all playoffs,” Lue said of Love. “At some point you’re going to miss some shots. But that’s not our main concern. We’ve got to be better defensively, and we’re going to make shots.”