Pregame Dribbles: LeBron was right to call out Love
Random dribbles prior to the Cavaliers' Game 7 showdown with the Indiana Pacers on Sunday at Quicken Loans Arena.
1. LeBron James was right -- Kevin Love needs to step up. "We can't make the shots for him," James said after Love struggled to a 3-of-10 shooting performance for a mere seven points in the Cavs' embarrassing Game 6 loss.
2. The previous three games for Love have been a nightmare. He went 2-of-10 shooting in Game 4, followed by a 2-of-11 clunker in Game 5. Throw in Game 6 and Love is a combined 7-of-31 from the field. He's averaging a paltry 7.7 points and 9.3 rebounds during those three games. Yuck, yuck and double yuck.
3. This from the guy who's supposed to be the second option behind LeBron. Now, Love did injure his thumb on his left (non-shooting) hand in Game 2. While the Cavs have released nothing official, he reportedly suffered some ligament damage. Maybe it's bothering him more than he's letting on. But somehow, someway Love must come to life.
4. LeBron wasn't picking on Love. He was merely speaking the truth. "He’s a huge part of our success or our non-success,” James said of Love. “We try to go to him, we want to go to him. He has to step up and knock those down.”
5. Translation: No more sissy ball. It's time for Love and the rest of the Cavs to show some real guts and produce. Otherwise, we can go ahead and fire up all those offseason rumors.
6. It's hard to think about a LeBron-led team losing Game 7 at home or getting bounced in the first round. But in order to avoid that, the Cavs will need to go back to making Pacers star Victor Oladipo miserable -- or at least really work for his points. Game 6 came much too easily for him. Not surprisingly, the Cavs were run out of the gym.
7. The Cavs are a soft team and have to be coaxed into really getting after it defensively. Tyronn Lue has done a poor job of handling the rotation in his first season without Kyrie Irving, and the defense is too often shaky at best. Sometimes, it's downright porous. The Cavs turned over the roster in February. Yet many of the same issues remain. The only person left to blame is the coach.
8. I do believe the Cavs will win. I have considerably more confidence in that statement than I did for their last Game 7 -- against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Finals. That one came on the road on a much bigger stage, yet the Cavs won, anyway. This team isn't as good as that one, but at least it still has LeBron. And Love if he ever pulls it together.
9. Someone else will really need to spring to life, too. Maybe it can be Rodney Hood or Jordan Clarkson, or even J.R. Smith, who also has plenty of experience at winning time. Or how about Kyle Korver? He's reached double figures in scoring in this series three times, and the Cavs have won them all.
10. All I know is if the Cavs lose, and I'm general manager Koby Altman, I'm finding out what that lottery pick (via the Brooklyn Nets) and Love can get me in return on draft night.
11. Prediction: If the Cavs fail to make it back to the Finals, Lue will be fired. Perhaps quickly. LeBron will stay with the Cavs, but only if they move that pick in a deal for some real veteran help. (San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, anyone?)
12. Prediction II: The Cavs will beat the Pacers, but I suspect a close one. They will then move on to face the Toronto Raptors in the East semifinals -- without homecourt advantage, no less. But I predict the Cavs will win that series in six. I know, it sounds preposterous. But this is LeBron we're talking about, and if these guys can get things even slightly corrected, they could again be going places. But first, they have to take care of business in the biggest game of the season.