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The world may not have been waiting for Kevin Love to return but the Cleveland Cavaliers sure were.
Lost in the news of coach Tyronn Lue’s leave of absence was the return of Love, the All-Star forward who had missed 21 straight games after fracturing his left hand.
That all ended Monday, when Love returned and the Cavs scooted past the visiting Milwaukee Bucks by a 124-117 count.
And Love looked as if he hadn’t missed a dribble, pass or shot — scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 25 strong minutes. He had spent time in practice with a ball, putting up jumpers and getting back in the flow. His preparations paid off.
“I thought he gave us a tremendous lift, I really did,” associate coach Larry Drew said of Love. “Not only that he made shots, but he was very active defensively. … He just opens up a lot, especially when he’s playing at the five against a center who’s not used to being on the perimeter.”
This, of course, wasn’t just Love coming back to the team. This was Love’s first game with the team since the Feb. 8 trades that landed George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. (who was out injured) and Rodney Hood (ditto).
Along with those players came a new mindset. The Cavs need a consistent No. 2 scoring option behind LeBron James, and there is no longer a question about which player that will be.
Without a doubt, it is Love.
“Just being out there with the new guys felt good,” he said of trade-deadline acquisitions. “It was good.”
For the Cavs, it was very clearly good to have him back.