Kevin Love left much to be desired in his debut season with the Cavs last year. He contributed 16.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 75 games while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 36.7 percent from three.
Modest numbers, but not quite what you’d expect from one of the best players in basketball.
However, this season and especially over the last two weeks, Love is the human fire emoji. He’s averaging 19.8 points (20th in the NBA) and 11.8 boards (fourth) while shooting 46 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from downtown. Love’s 10 double-doubles are also fourth-most in the NBA this season behind Andre Drummond, Russell Westbrook and Zaza Pachulia (Yes, THAT Zaza Pachulia!) In his last six games, the former UCLA standout’s posting a ridiculous shooting slash line of 55.7/55.8/85.7 while scoring 24.3 points per contest during that span. The shot chart below, provided by NBA.com, better illustrates just how wet the 27-year-old’s jumper has been as of late.
Kevin Love's last 6 GP (@cavs 5-1):
24.3 PPG, 4 threes made / game (55.8% 3FG%), 72.8% TS% pic.twitter.com/uqSKlCRjGW
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) November 29, 2015
So, what’s the biggest reason for Love’s resurgence? According to Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins, who got his first taste of Love and the Cavs this season on Nov. 28, Love appears to be in better shape and drawing off the competitiveness of teammate LeBron James (per NorthJersey,com).
“It looks like he’s in much better shape. I was watching the tape and I had to ask who that was because he looks like he’s in better shape. He’s probably better focused. When you play with guys like a LeBron, who are very focused and very disciplined, in how they prepare and work — not that Kevin didn’t work in Minnesota. But I think that when you’re in a high-level winning environment, it’s a different level that you have to be consistent with. And I think that being with LeBron has helped him see that level and move toward that level.”
Love’s lack of ideal conditioning last season was reportedly a source of tension between himself and James, as Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal pointed out last month.
“In truth, James was frustrated in part because Love showed up out of shape. He didn’t work out much at all the summer he was traded here and he wasn’t the player James was expecting. His legs bothered him all season. His back was hurting. All of the parts were connected and none of them were firing properly.
James loves talent and he loves playing alongside elite players. Love’s physical condition prevented him from being the player James thought he was getting. As a result, James gravitated toward Kyrie Irving and Love never fit well into this system.”
This time around, Love and James seem to be on the same page. Of James’ 66 assisted field goals made this season, Love is responsible for 13 of them, third-most of any of K-Love’s teammates. Meanwhile, James has dished on 36 of Love’s 93 assisted buckets, which is more than Mo Williams and Matthew Delladova combined (35).
The renewed chemistry between the two superstars can be seen here.
Love’s return to his once-dominant form couldn’t come at a better time for both James and the Cavs. With Kyrie Irving still recovering from knee surgery, J.R. Smith struggling to find a rhythm and so many of the team’s other role players hobbled, Cleveland needed someone to step up and lighten the load on James’ shoulders.
So far, Love is answering the call.