Mears: What to Expect From the Cavs Without Kevin Love

Mears: What to Expect From the Cavs Without Kevin Love article feature image

It may not seem like it because of how underrated these Celtics have been all playoffs, but LeBron James has a tough road ahead of him in Game 7. He has very little help, despite the Cavaliers overhauling the roster at the trade deadline, and now he’s down one of his most important teammates in Kevin Love, who has been ruled out for Game 7. The line (Cavs +2) didn’t move a whole lot once that injury was announced, likely because it was already baked in.


The data on Love this series is interesting. With him on the floor against the Celtics, the Cavs have been outscored by 7.4 points per 100 possessions. With him off they’ve outscored the Celtics by 7.5 points/100. That said, I’m hesitant to put a lot of stock in that sample since the difference has mostly been on offense: The Cavs have posted a 98.0 Offensive Rating with Love on versus a 109.8 mark with him off. There’s definitely some noise to that, and Love’s absence will almost certainly hurt the Cavaliers’ offense. During the regular season, the Cavs were slightly better offensively with him on versus off (+1.9 points/100), but importantly, they took a lot fewer 3-pointers without him. LeBron will be able to find shooters, and Game 7 will likely come down to which team can knock down its outside shots.

And unfortunately, that hasn’t happened for Cleveland in Boston. At home, the Cavs have averaged 11.0 “open” 3-pointers per game — classified by NBA Stats as a defender being 4 to 6 feet away — and have made 45.5% of them. On the road, they’ve averaged 10.7 per game and have made just 25.0%. LeBron still has shooters in the lineup with him, notably George Hill, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver. And the main lineups this series without Love have been, well, great actually. The unit of Jordan Clarkson-Korver-LeBron-Jeff Green-Larry Nance has played 31 minutes and posted a +49.8 net rating. The unit of Hill-Smith-LeBron-Green-Tristan Thompson has played 24 minutes and posted a +16.3 net rating. The Cavs can conquer their road demons — they have maybe the best player of all time, after all — but a few outside shots will have to go their way for LeBron to make it eighth straight Finals appearances.