The Cavaliers can’t survive if Kevin Love keeps playing like this

INDIANAPOLIS — As it is turning out, the four trades the Cavaliers made on Feb. 8 are failing them.But it’s the one they didn’t make that is failing them the most.The Cavs were prepared to move Kevin Love in a three-team trade that would’ve brought Paul George to Cleveland last summer, around the start of free agency. The Indiana Pacers, as you know, backed out and instead shipped George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.This isn’t a story about what Oladipo and Sabonis have done to the Cavs in this first-round series, which will be decided by a seventh and final game Sunday.It’s about what Love hasn’t done.Every move the Cavs made, beginning with the franchise-shifting trade of Kyrie Irving, was predicated on at least one hope and belief — that LeBron James and Love would be enough to get this team back to the Finals.Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert and first-year general manager Koby Altman hedged their bet on the future by essentially trading Irving to the Celtics for the Brooklyn 2018 first-round pick (yes, there were more pieces, but that was the one they coveted).Altman rightfully tore the roster apart at the trade deadline and made the team younger and quicker. But he shipped Cavs veterans like Channing Frye and even Iman Shumpert, who had been through the wars here of the past three Finals (in Shumpert’s case) and played key roles in the 2016 title.Altman also sent away Dwyane Wade, a three-time champion, and Derrick Rose, a former MVP, and the bench has largely failed the Cavs in the playoffs.The Cavs cannot survive those moves if Love plays like this.Love scored seven points and shot 3-of-10 in a 121-87 loss in Game 6. It was his third game this series with fewer than 10 points. He’s averaging 11 points for the series and is shooting 22-of-68 (.324) in the series with 15 turnovers. And yet he’s still the Cavs’ second-leading scorer.”He’s a huge part of our success or our non success,” James said after Game 6. “Obviously, we try to go to him, we want to go to him. Obviously we can’t make the shots for him. He has to step up and knock those down. Those things you can’t control. The shot making, you’re going to have games where you can’t make shots and you can make shots, but we have to continue to let him know how important he is to our success and if want to have any success, either in a Game 7 or moving on to the next round, Kev has to be a big part of that.”There it is. The Cavs could maybe win Game 7 with Love playing like a shell of his normal self. They’ve done it twice already in this series. But if they are to have a prayer of advancing to the Eastern finals and Finals, Love has to be better, by leaps and bounds.This is Love’s first shot at being the Cavs’ second scoring option in the playoffs — a role he filled with aplomb during the regular season. He averaged 20.2 points and 10.2 rebounds until January, when Isaiah Thomas (part of the Irving trade) joined the lineup for the first time and sucked all the air out. Still Love, was named to the All-Star team for the fifth time in his career.When Love returned from a broken bone in his left hand through the end of the regular season ( Thomas was gone, traded to Los Angeles), he averaged 16.5 points and made 45.7 percent of his 3s.Thomas, who was never quite right after coming back from a year-long hip injury, was supposed to be Irving’s replacement in the offense. Well, Love is playing now like Thomas is still here. During the month where Love and Thomas were on the court together, Love averaged 11.6 points and he shot .386 from 3-point range.Only, Thomas is long gone. And the Cavs really don’t have anyone besides James and Love who can be counted on to score. Except, Love is failing to do that.”It’s not me, but it’s not about me, either,” Love said. “I’ve done a lot of other good things. I know you guys will talk about the offense, but I just got to find a way to impact the game in different ways.”Love injured his left thumb in Game 2. It’s on his non-shooting hand, but perhaps it has affected his ball handling.Also, Tyronn Lue has credited Love with the energy he’s exerting by blitzing Oladipo on the pick-and-rolls, and that’s the excuse the Cavs are using now for why Love isn’t making his shots.Lue has also suggested that Love needed to better establish himself on the block against Thaddeus Young or Myles Turner, who Lue has hinted were pushing Love around this series.

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