Kevin Love proved just how valuable he can be to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ playoff run in Game 3 of their playoff series against Boston, dropping 23 points on shooting and slashing while playing some respectable defense as well, but mostly importantly, hitting a pair of 3-point daggers late in the fourth quarter.
In Game 4, with his team looking to make quick work of the Celtics and get some rest before their second-round series, Love was nowhere to be found in the fourth quarter. The star power forward, who has endured through a tough year of criticism while adjusting to a new role for the Cavs, suffered what could end up being his biggest setback yet: a left shoulder injury suffered midway through the first quarter. Love got tangled up with Boston’s Kelly Olynyk going for a rebound, and his shoulder became dislocated. Holding his shoulder, Love immediately ran to the locker room and has since been treated with ice. Cleveland hadn’t given an update on his condition by the end of the game.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers were still able to win the game, 101-93, despite the Celtics once again proving to be a handful. But the Love injury set off what became a much messier Game 4 than the Cavs were surely hoping for.
Olynyk injures Love, somehow gets off scott-free. – The Love incident happened just after the 6-minute mark of the first quarter, and its result lingered over the rest of the game, as Cleveland was clearly frustrated to have lost one of their most important players in what they hoped would be a quick, tidy elimination game. If this team loses Love for an extended period of time, it would be a crushing blow to their championship aspirations.
After the game, Love said he believed Olynyk hurt him on purpose, and although it’s hard to make a surefire declaration like that, the Cavs weren’t afraid to get after it from that point on, both Kendrick Perkins and JR Smith picked up flagrant fouls for separate incidents during the game. Perkins threw down Jae Crowder while setting a screen for LeBron James in the second quarter, while Smith smacked Crowder in the face during a rebound attempt in the fourth quarter. Crowder has obviously been a pest on both ends on this series, and he did make some comments about physicality prior to Game 4, but it was strange to see him involved in separate incidents rather than Olynyk. Not advocating for any fighting, just saying that Olynyk’s disappearance after he injured one of the most important players in the entire NBA playoffs was odd.
The super-physical game played more into the hands of the Celtics than the Cavs, and Boston once again made a resilient run in the second half after being down by 21 points at halftime. They almost made it too.
Luigi Datome misses 3-pointer with 44 seconds remaining. – Boston outscored Cleveland during the third quarter 25-23 and turned the Cavs’ offense into the stagnant, iso-heavy lurch that it has a bad tendency to become when games become tight. Without Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were having a hard time finding space for themselves and definitely weren’t putting it in anyone else’s hands. JR Smith had been thrown out of the game, and before you knew it, the Celtics had trimmed the lead to just 6 points with 44 seconds left to go in the fourth quarter. This one looked like the time Boston might finally get their comeback, especially once Marcus Smart knocked the ball off Irving’s hands during a full-court press and got the ball back.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, with a chance to cut the lead to 3, Datome missed a tough jumper off a screen, and the Cavs rebounded it before Irving hit a pair of free throws. Now down 8, that was all she wrote for the Celtics for this series. This young group from Boston made a good run to get to the playoffs and played a respectable first-round series against a great team with a playoff-seasoned leader. That last run encapsulated their first-round perfectly: an encouraging, hard-fought run to get close, but ultimately, still not close to where they need to be.