Between injuries and the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ post-LeBron James rebuild, Kevin Love had become something of a forgotten man in recent years. He played just 103 games in the past three seasons combined, and when he was in the headlines it was because of trade rumors or his on-court outbursts of frustration.
Love never did get traded, and that’s turned out to be a blessing for the Cavaliers because now that he’s healthy he’s played a major role in their turnaround this season. That continued on Monday night when Love finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds to help the Cavs beat the New York Knicks, 95-93, for their seventh win in eight games.
In addition to being the team’s leading scorer on the night, Love led a crucial run in the third quarter to give the Cavs a double-digit lead. Coming out of the halftime break, the Cavs struggled to get anything going on offense, and had only five points through the first four-plus minutes of the frame. That’s when Love stepped up.
First, he buried a 3-pointer at the top of the key to beat the shot clock and pull the Cavs within one. Then he just kept on firing. He made three more triples over the next few minutes, including a bomb from close to the logo that got the Cleveland crowd off its feet. In less than three minutes, the Cavs ripped off a 17-2 run to turn a four-point deficit into an 11-point lead. Love had 12 of those points on his own, and the Cavs never trailed again.
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The Knicks did briefly tie things up late in the fourth, but the Cavs were able to hold on and secure another win thanks in large part to Love. After a bit of a rough patch around Christmas and New Year’s, the Cavs have gotten right back on track. Thanks to this latest hot streak, they’re now 29-19, which has them in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, and just 1.5 games out of first.
There was some preseason buzz around the Cavs, but no one expected them to be in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the East. Likewise, there weren’t heavy expectations for Love, especially after he was sent home from Team USA this summer. That both the team and personal successes have come out of nowhere has made it all the more enjoyable to watch, and you can see how much Love means to his teammates.
“You know, the world we live in now I think people have quick memories,” Love said. “I’m thankful for that. In this league, fortunate momentum can change on a dime… I think winning changes a lot and learning from mistakes does too.”