Cavs Rule Love Out for Game 7, Forcing Both Teams To Adjust

BOSTON – The Cavaliers announced Saturday afternoon that All-Star forward Kevin Love has been placed into the NBA’s concussion protocol and will miss Sunday’s matchup against the Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Finals.

Love collided with Celtics wing Jayson Tatum Friday night with 6:58 remaining in the first quarter of Game 6. Love immediately fell to the floor, was helped off of the court moments later and did not return to the sideline for the remainder of the game.

Tatum, meanwhile, remained in the game following the collision that left a welt on the back-left portion of his head. Celtics coach Brad Stevens stated Saturday afternoon that Tatum has seemingly avoided any injury that could jeopardize his availability for Game 7.

“He felt great this morning. He felt great last night when we landed. Felt great after the game,” Stevens said via conference call Saturday afternoon. “So nothing there to be concerned about.”

Cleveland, meanwhile, is in a very different scenario. Following Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue’s conference call with the media, the team formally announced that Love will miss Game 7.

Losing Love is a significant blow for a Cavs team that has struggled to score during this series outside of through LeBron James, who is averaging 33.3 points per game during the Eastern Finals. Love was averaging 15.0 PPG and 11.0 RPG during the series heading into Game 6.

However, in Love’s absence, other Cavaliers stepped up during Game 6 to keep Cleveland’s season alive.

George Hill scored 20 points, Jeff Green provided 14, and Larry Nance Jr. scored 10 to go along with seven rebounds and two steals. Stevens singled out all of those players, as well as Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith, during his conference call Saturday afternoon. He also explained what he expects to see from the Cavs offense without Love.

“If Love’s not available,” he said, “probably more opportunities for LeBron, more opportunities for Korvers and Smiths and those guys, and the point guards off of pick-and-rolls. And all of those were very effective against us last night.”

Without Love on the court, point guards such as Hill and Jordan Clarkson were far more aggressive from a scoring perspective when they initiated pick-and-rolls. Adjusting to defend those plays will be a priority for Boston.

So, too, will be solving what the Cavs bring to the table with their own defense while Love is not on the floor. Cleveland alters its entire defensive strategy when Love is out of the game.

With Love on the court, Cleveland rarely switches defensively. However, without him, the Cavs are far more versatile and regularly switch on pick-and-rolls and dribble hand-offs, and they oftentimes send traps at specific targets.

Scoring against those variations of defense requires variations of offense. Fortunately for the Celtics, they now have an entire game tape to study and figure out how they want to attack the Love-less Cavs defense Sunday night.

That’s what the next 24 hours will be all about. Boston now knows with certainty that Love will not play during Game 7. It also knows how the Cavs will play without Love, having just seen that iteration of Cleveland for 43 minutes during Game 6.

Playoff series are all about adjustments. Now, both teams must make massive adjustments heading into Game 7 due to Love’s impending absence.

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