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In his last four appearances, Kevin Love is averaging 23.0 points and 11.4 rebounds.
In the last four games overall, Jordan Clarkson is at 17.5 points, Cedi Osman is averaging 18.0 points and shooting 55 percent, and Collin Sexton is at 16.5 points and hitting 86 percent on free throws.
Those are four very good reasons why the Cavaliers are 5-1 in their last six games with Love. It’s also why the Cavs no longer resemble their 16-48 record and why they suddenly aren’t wearing the look of a franchise that’s totally fixated on the draft lottery.
“We’re having fun playing together,” Love said. “We’re sharing the ball, moving the ball and playing for each other. I think we’re making steps and strides in the right direction. I think it relieves attention from losing and just not accepting the losses.”
Now, it helps that the Cavs have had some less-than-stellar opponents and have been blessed with a stretch of home games. But it’s more than that.
These are games the Cavs were losing earlier this season. They would keep it close for quarter after quarter, then sort of fall apart in the fourth. The development of Sexton and Osman has played a role in the turnaround.
Most of it, though, has been the result of a healthy Love.
He makes it easier for the others to facilitate. He makes it tougher for opponents to double-team and trap. He opens up the floor and gives his teammates room to operate.
“A lot goes through Kevin Love, whether it’s posting or if he’s on the perimeter,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said. “He’s the guy we really count on as far as initiating our offense. We know he’s capable of making shots. We know we can put him in the post. We know if he gets fouled in the post he can go to the free-throw line and make a free throw.”
Love has only appeared in 11 games total with the Cavs. But after returning from the November toe surgery, he may have put together his best seven-game run since the trade that brought him to Cleveland in 2014.
He is clearly playing with at least as much joy, if not more. Some might call it a surprise, but it doesn’t take an NBA scout to see Love truly likes being on the floor with his new teammates and leading the way.
“He’s the guy who we like to run our offense through,” Drew said. “Being the scorer that he is, he’s a willing passer. It makes your offense flow very smoothly when you have a guy like that. Our guys really love playing with him.”
Sexton and Clarkson have both admitted their lives have become much easier since Love returned. Sexton especially has benefited. Rookie point guards almost always need a quality big man to take off some of the pressure. Love has been that man for Sexton.
“He draws a lot of attention, so him being on the court is a big boost for us,” Clarkson said after the Cavs stunned the Orlando Magic on Sunday. “He gives everybody confidence. You know he’s going to pull guys over and draw double teams. It gives guys confidence — they know if they give the ball up they’re going to get it back.”
Yes, it’s been a long and forgettable season that most definitely will not go down in Cavaliers lore. It’s one of those years you can’t wait to forget.
But that’s the future.
As for the present, Drew admires how his team keeps coming out fighting, how Love is leading, how this batch of Cavs is not just learning how to keep things close, but starting to learn how to win.
“It’s been a tough season for us. We’ve acknowledged that,” Drew said. “We’re still competing. We’re still going to play hard. There are going to be good nights and bad nights.
“As I told them prior to the game (vs. the Magic), it won’t be about what our opponents do. It’s about us. We follow our game plan from a strategic standpoint. We play together. We play hard. And at the end of the game, we let the chips fall where they may.”