By Brandon Easler
Kevin Love has officially been cleared from the NBA’s concussion protocol and will play tonight in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. However, the betting line went from the Warriors as 12.5-point favorites to 13-point favorites. Love is clearly the second-best player on the Cavs, but he does not have a favorable matchup in this series if he starts. The Cavs have also arguably played better without him at certain times in the playoffs (most notably the last two games against the Celtics). He will most likely be going up against Draymond, which has proven to be a problem for Love in the past three Finals.
This is why I believe Love should come off the bench, even though Ty Lue seems to be strongly against the idea. Bringing Love off the bench would allow him to feast against the likes of Bell, West, and whichever other big man that Steve Kerr decides to put in. That would allow Love to get his rhythm and successfully insert him into the flow of the game against a mismatch. Love needs to have a phenomenal series if the Cavs want a chance to bring down the heavily-favored Warriors. He needs to get back to his Minnesota days and average somewhere around 20 points and 15 rebounds to give LeBron a solid second option.
However, this scenario is not too likely. Love will probably produce somewhere around 15 points and 10 rebounds, which are solid numbers but not anywhere near what the Cavs need to make this series competitive. The Cavs also need exceptional three-point shooting from the likes of J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, George Hill, Love, Jeff Green, and probably Jordan Clarkson too since we all know he will find a way to get his shots up. I would say LeBron needs at least three other guys scoring in double figures to really help lighten his load on offense and for the Cavs to push this series past the 4 or 5 games many people expect it to be. Game 1 will most likely set the tone for the rest of this series. If the Warriors stomp the Cavs it could be a quick series like everyone has predicted. If the Cavs keep it close or possibly win it, we could be in for a much better Finals than last year. We will find out in a few hours which of these will come to fruition.
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