Love's big second half leads Cavaliers over Spurs in overtime
BY STONE LEXINGTON
CAVALIERS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - Five-time NBA All-Star Kevin Love has played on teams that have reached the mountaintop. This season, however, his team rests in a deep valley.
Love won a championship with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, while also appearing in four straight NBA Finals from 2015-18. For the last two seasons, though, Love has experienced an abundance of losing.
Last year, the Cavs finished the regular season with a 19-63 record, their worst showing since 2011. Love played in only 22 games because of a foot injury, and the Cavs underwent another coaching change. Back and healthy with the Cavs this season, Love hasn’t experienced much more prosperity.
The Cavs entered Sunday’s contest with the San Antonio Spurs with only 18 wins and 19 games left to play on their schedule. And despite Love having one of the worst shooting night’s of his career against San Antonio, the Cavs held on for a thrilling 132-129 overtime victory in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
“All of this stuff is experience for us,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “All of this is an opportunity for us to learn and grow and understand who we want to be. I thought they turned up their pressure a little bit, they junked the game up a little bit and I don’t think we responded well in that second quarter.
“I think we reverted back a little bit, and that’s why they were able to go and make their run. To our guys credit, they went out and kept competing and found a way to get back to playing the way we want to play, and it helped us get the W.”
The Cavs were fairly dominant in the first half, especially in the first quarter. When Cavs center Andre Drummond sank two free throws with 3:51 remaining in the first quarter, the Cavs had taken a commanding 26-10 lead. When Larry Nance Jr. drained his only three-point attempt of the first quarter with 1:13 to play, Cleveland took its largest lead of the first half at 33-16.
The Cavs led 35-18 when the first quarter ended and enjoyed a 10-point advantage at halftime, 60-50. Yet, the Spurs wouldn’t go away, as they opened the third quarter with a 13-2 run to take their first lead of the game at 63-62. The Cavs once large lead had been erased, and when the third quarter ended, the Spurs were taking a 91-87 advantage into the fourth.
The Cavs didn’t regain a lead until Cedi Osman converted a layup with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter at 102-100. Roughly two minutes later, Love made his first bucket of the night after starting 0-for-8 from the field to put the Cavs up four. Spurs guard Bryn Forbes converted a layup with 16 seconds to play in regulation that tied the game at 116 apiece. The Cavs had the ball for the final possession and put it in Collin Sexton’s hands.
Sexton drove right to the hole and was fouled. He went to the line and sank both free throws with 3.2 seconds showing to put the Cavs up two. San Antonio forward Rudy Gay, however, sank a jump shot with one second to play in the fourth quarter that ultimately sent the game to overtime.
Leading by a slim 124-122 margin in overtime, Love sank the biggest bucket of the game, a three-pointer with 1:50 to play that put the Cavs up 127-122. The Spurs didn’t score again until less than 20 seconds remained in the game.
Despite shooting just 3-of-12 from the field on Sunday, Love recorded his 23rd double-double of the season and 436th of this career, totaling 14 points and 18 rebounds.
Starting in place of an injured Darius Garland for the second straight game, Matthew Dellavedova recorded his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 assists in 45 minutes. Andre Drummond finished with a game-high 28 points with 17 rebounds.
Sexton scored 26 points, while Nance Jr. finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in 43 minutes.
Bickerstaff previously spent a few seasons with Love as an assistant coach in Minnesota with the Timberwolves. The coach explained how he has had tough conversations with Love in the past.
“He and I have known each other for a long time,” Bickerstaff said about Love. “We spent a ton of time together when he was a rookie (in Minnesota). He’s had his ups and downs, but we sat down, we had hard conversations.
“We’ve built a great relationship, and it’s come kind of full circle. I believe that because of our relationship, he’s doing a lot more. Because he trusts me, because he knows I trust him, because we respect one another, I feel like he’s trying to help push this thing in the right direction because he wants to see it work.”
This season, Bickerstaff said his conversations with Love have been more of the genuine than tough variety.
“We just have honest conversations,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s different when I was 27 and he was 18. Those conversations were a little different.
“Now, he’s a full grown man and he knows who he is, so you can have open, honest conversations with him and there is no pushback because he’s comfortable in his skin.”
Love is one of four players in the NBA averaging at least nine rebounds and two three-point field goals made this season, along with Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
“He’s comfortable right now with what we’ve got going on,” Bickerstaff said. “He wants to be on the floor. He’s leading the charge kind of in where we’re going…He’s in a really good place.”
POSTED 03/08/2020 23:19