Cavs’ Ricky Rubio-Kevin Love two-man game is providing jolt

Ricky Rubio (left) and Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Ricky Rubio (left) and Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers have gotten all they could’ve asked for from Ricky Rubio, who has been such a valuable trade acquisition from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The shot has come down to earth for him, as he’s connected on only 34.2 percent of his shots in the past eight games. Rubio has still gotten some timely pull-up attempts to go down in recent games though, and has still knocked in some big threes.

Generally speaking, he’s been huge for this Cavalier team, and without Collin Sexton, the Cavs have to live with streakiness from Rubio as a deep shooter.

That said, in his supersub-type minutes, his passing is always crucial and he helps open up plenty of opportunities for teammates. One of those, in particular, is Kevin Love, who has settled into his new bench role, and recently, has been red-hot from three-point range.

And the two-man game between Rubio and Love, somewhat in that realm, has really given the Cavs a spark of late, too.

The Rubio-Love two-man game has given the Cavs quite a jolt for stretches lately.

Heading into the season, it was a question mark as to how Love would adjust to a bench role, let alone if he would receive a real chunk of minutes. With Lauri Markkanen playing as a de facto 3 offensively, that’s led to Love getting his share of playing time, however, and as KJG’s Mark Wilson expressed, Love has been killing it from deep. That’s been since his return from COVID-19 health and safety protocols, really, similarly to Lauri Markkanen.

In Love’s last 12 games, he’s had 13.3 points per outing, and has been on fire from beyond the arc, as he’s knocked in 50.0 percent of his 5.8 deep attemts per game in that span. Thanks to his hot shooting in his return from protocols/a bout with the virus, even after a cold spell to begin the season, Love’s now up to 41.2 percent from deep on the year.

As we alluded to, the two-man game between Rubio and his former Timberwolves teammate, in Love, has really provided a spark for the Cavs, who walloped the Houston Rockets 124-89 on Wednesday, albeit a severely shorthanded Rockets team, also. Just as KJG’s Billy Beebe forecasted prior to the season, those two seemed to be a notable bench duo this year for Cleveland, as they had a great connection on Minnesota before, and they have been very on-point recently.

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The pick-and-pops between those two have been on display, and it’s allowed Love to either bait defenders into hard closeouts, leading to occasional three-free throw situations, or Love’s been able to simply hoist with defenders out of control, and him separating.

Along with those looks, it’s just been good to see Rubio find Love off movement on the weak side, or at times after say, offensive rebounds leading to kickouts to him, which have led to one-more passes to Love in the strong side corner, for example. In those situations, he’s been nearly automatic, and those sort of sequences have helped ignite or keep Cleveland runs going in recent games.

In addition to the Rubio-to-Love dishes resulting in deep balls, although he does it when the mismatches do arise for others bigs, too, Rubio seems to have especially great timing for getting passes to Love when he gets seals inside.

That’s either led to free throws or favorable matchups either at the mid-post or occasionally on the block, where Love has been efficient with his finishing this season, albeit with post-ups not having nearly the volume of catch-and-shoots. Even still, it’s led to quality offense.

And while we’re emphasizing this two-man game far more with Rubio dishing to Love, Love has gotten Rubio some looks from deep off passes out of double teams, or with Rubio getting occasional cutting looks from Love initiating at the top of the key. Those have led to either lay-ins for Rubio, or him making sensible extra passes at times to other guys on the perimeter, or to Allen, perhaps, in the dunker spot.

Lastly, with Love being such a gifted outlet passer after defensive rebounds or opponent turnovers, and Rubio usually making sound decisions in transition, those Love deliveries to him in those instances have led to early offense for Cleveland here and there, also.

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Overall, it’s been good to see the Rubio-Love duo give the Cavaliers a jolt this season, and that should continue in stretches throughout games with the two being steady vets the team can rely on off the bench.