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Since LeBron James did not speak to reporters after practice Saturday in afternoon, the responsibility fell on Kevin Love.
The Cleveland Cavaliers trail the Indiana Pacers in their first-round playoff series, 2-1, headed into Game 4 on Sunday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Love said the Cavs have not lost their will to win nor their willingness to remain upbeat, despite trailing in the best-of-seven series.
“Yeah, absolutely. I think the want is definitely there,” Love said. “If tomorrow goes our way, we even up the series, then we’re right back at it.
“We have to win this one tomorrow.”
It was a hot-and-cold Game 3 in terms of production for Love. He had 16 points in the first half on 6-of-11 shooting as Cleveland built a 47-30 lead at the break.
However, it was a complete 180 in the second half as Love somehow took just two shots, one a corner three-ball after chasing down an offensive rebound with 7.6 seconds to play to bring Cleveland to within a point at 91-90.
“I can go try and get it off the glass. I just have to, a lot like Game 1, just find different ways to try and get the ball,” the five-time All-Star who scored 19 points, second only to James’ 28 for the Cavaliers, said. “If they’re switching, go into the post and those guys have got to throw it in there,” Love said. “In some cases, I need to go get it and just need to be more, I guess, vocal in calling for it.”
In what proved to be a horrific third quarter, Love did not attempt a single shot and turned the basketball over three times.
“We tried to post him, they were physical pushing him off his spot,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said of Love’s play in the second half. “We turned it over a couple times trying to get it to him on the block.”
If Cleveland comes up short in Game 4 Sunday night, it will find itself facing a 3-1 deficit, the same disadvantage it stared down in the 2016 NBA Finals, where the Cavaliers made history by becoming the first team in history to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to win the title.
Only Love, James, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, who has not gotten off the bench the past two games, played in that memorable series among current Cleveland players.
“We always, for whatever reason, rise up to adversity,” Smith said after Game 3 on Friday night. “We’ve just got to do it. If we want to be a playoff team and continue to play in these playoffs, we’ve got to come back strong.”
James refused to label Game 3 as a must-win contest for him and the Cavaliers in terms of going down, 3-1, in the series.
“It’s the postseason, [so] I think every game is a must-win,” James said. “If you come in with the mindset that every game is a must-win, you try to play with that type of urgency.”