Kevin Love’s game vs. Pistons was just what he and Cavs needed

Cleveland Cavaliers wing Cedi Osman and Cleveland big Kevin Love share a moment against the Detroit Pistons. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers wing Cedi Osman and Cleveland big Kevin Love share a moment against the Detroit Pistons. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images) /

With all that’s gone on recently in terms of the conversation surrounding Kevin Love, his performance against the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday was just what he and the Cleveland Cavaliers needed.

Considering the flurry of reports out there involving the conversation surrounding Kevin Love and his relationship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is making it seem inevitable that he’ll indeed be traded in the near future by the Cavs, Love’s days with the Wine and Gold appear to be coming an end.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on a recent episode of his podcast, “The Hoop Collective,” essentially highlighted how Love, as Sports Illustrated‘s Sam Amico transcribed, “totally wants out” of Cleveland.

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Love did address his recent actions and apologized for them in his media availability on Tuesday, and also completely downplayed him reportedly erupting at general manager Koby Altman that supposedly happened following the team’s shootaround against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. That was according to The Athletic‘s Joe Vardon and Shams Charania, also of Stadium.

Nonetheless, Love and the Cavaliers are fully aware that his recent actions cannot happen. He lost it on the bench on New Year’s Eve at the Toronto Raptors and threw a dodgeball elimination pass to Cedi Osman against OKC in retaliation for not receiving a timely pass from Collin Sexton due to head coach John Beilein reportedly wanting to run more clock. Those won’t lead to a desirable trade outcome for both parties.

Anyway, Love’s performance on Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons in a narrow 115-113 loss was just what he and the team needed.

Love was outstanding, as he had 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting (including four-of-six from three-point range), to go with nine rebounds and four assists, as noted by ESPN. Granted, Love did have four turnovers, too, but his ability to knock down shots from deep, and consistently hit mid-range shots, sometimes after his patented quick jabs to create space, played an integral role in keeping the Cavs ahead for the vast majority of the game.

Frankly, this was a game that the Cavaliers let get away from them, and it stings.

Detroit was without Blake Griffin, who is reportedly considering having season-ending knee surgery according to Yahoo! Sports Chris Haynes, and the Pistons also were without Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson (as has been the case for most of 2019-20) and Markieff Morris.

The Cavaliers did not have Kevin Porter Jr. (due to a reported knee sprain), Larry Nance Jr. (knee soreness), Dante Exum (illness) and still have not had Dylan Windler make an appearance yet, but this was a game they controlled most of the way, and at one point, had a 15-point lead.

That being said, Love’s performance, which included a 15-point third quarter, as Fox Sports Ohio/the Cavs’ Angel Gray hit on, was again, just what he and the Cleveland Cavaliers needed.

Although the Cavaliers again flopped in crunch time, which is unfortunately something we’ve seen throughout this season, as The Athletic‘s Kelsey Russo (subscription required) emphasized, but is not totally shocking with a team playing so many young pieces big minutes such as Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, Love did his part.

Love’s dishes to Cedi Osman and one to Garland who did a timely cut in coming from the weakside along the baseline were great to see, and those sort of plays are just what potential trade suitors are looking for from Love, along with most notably, his ability to space the floor.

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Love was also noticeably engaged with his teammates, was upbeat and clearly bought-in, and was giving max effort, especially when helping Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic keep the NBA’s rebounding leader, Andre Drummond, controlled to an extent on the glass as the game progressed. Drummond did finish with 20 rebounds, including eight offensive, but after the first quarter, Love and company did a solid job of boxing him out.

Anyhow, even though it was a tough loss, Love wasn’t exactly thrilled, as nobody on Cleveland was and understandably so, but he was far from just ripping into young guys and pointing fingers.

Plus, as Beilein basically touched on and’s Chris Fedor illustrated, Cleveland should’ve gotten the ball to Love more down the stretch, including on a play when Sexton threw up a wild floater on the Cavs’ last meaningful possession that didn’t even hit the rim.

Moreover, when you factor in that the Cavaliers, according to Windhorst on ESPN’s “The Jump,” want Love to help them help him in terms of being able to get him to a desirable trade destination (h/t Cavaliers Nation’s Omar Guerrero), such as Love’s hometown Portland Trail Blazers, this sort of game and Love being fully engaged/a good teammate was just what the doctor ordered.

Now I’m not going to expect Love to keep having 30-point performances on 12-of-15 shooting every game he trots out the rest of his tenure for the Cavs, which could seemingly be until shortly before the February 6 trade deadline, but again, it was definitely timely.

The Cavaliers moving Love, as Windhorst and many others have noted, with the big man being injury-prone, 31 years old and having three years and about $91.5 million on his contract still after 2019-20, is anything but a simple task, though.

Regardless, Love is still putting up solid numbers of 16.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game with the Wine and Gold this season.

He’s hitting 38.5% of his 6.3 three-point attempts per game this year, as indicated by, too, so the veteran can still have a big impact for a contender looking for more floor spacing.

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Hopefully for Love and the Cavs’ sake, he can keep up a very strong level of play in Cleveland’s upcoming six-game road trip.