Over the first two games against the Pacers, Kevin Love has been the surprise stud of the team. He may not be the flashiest Cavalier, but he’s doing work. And, he’s doing it very efficiently. He’s averaging 22 a night, shooting 50% from 3-land, and has a true shooting percentage of 88.7%. Basically, if Kevin shoots the ball, the Cavs will get a point from him making it or hitting the ensuing free throws. He’s only averaging 7.5 boards this series, but his offense is more than making up for that.
Part of the reason for Love’s scoring success has been a commitment to getting to where he shoots the best from behind the arc. Like most players, he does his best shooting from the shortened corners. During the regular season, he took 36.7% of his 3-pointers from the corners and shot a very respectable 42%. In the playoffs, 70% of his 3s have come from the corners.
It’s unlikely Love keeps taking so many 3s from the corners, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he kept hitting over 40% from deep. He’s shooting without hesitation, which hasn’t always been the case for him.
In the play below, Love quickly gets down the floor and stands near the left hand corner to space the floor. He’s not exactly in the corner though, which is very important. The Cavs then run some action on the strong side with LeBron James screening and rolling to the hoop. James gets the ball with a head of steam to the rim. This causes Love’s man, along with the rest of the Pacers to move into the paint or be within a step of the paint. Love then quickly moves to the corner to ensure his man has to think a little bit about where he’s closing out to and to give himself the shortest shot possible. He takes the attempt the second he receives the ball.
Love has been very consistent staying in the weak side corner and forcing the Pacers to close out long distances. It’s almost automatic that he will scoot into the corner when his man leaves to stop penetration, usually LeBron’s penetration.
Love isn’t just hanging out at the 3-line though. He’s been establishing very early post position. If a small guy is trying to cover him, it’s game over. In this play from game one, Love sprints down the floor and spends just one second on the right side of block before Kyrie Irving finds him with the ball. Love’s smaller defender falls to the ground trying to steal the post pass, and the man behind him just can’t stop him as he elevates to hook it in.
In game two, Love went off in the third quarter when the Pacers decided to place Lance Stephenson on him. He scored ten straight points and it was all because he decided he would get into the paint fast. His first points in the quarter came when he got down the floor and established himself a foot outside of the left block. Irving threw him the entry pass right away and ran to the other side of the court, which eliminated the chance of a defender sagging down and catching Love blindly. Love then dribbled in and turned to the rim to get fouled by Stephenson. He drained the free throws.
The next time down the court, Love just ran as fast as possible and James hit him for an automatic bucket at the hoop, since Lance was too far under the basket to do anything.
LeBron and Love emulated that play again just a play later, as LeBron lobbed the ball to Love with Stephenson stuck on his back. Lance romanced Love and sent him to the line again where he drained both freebies.
Love’s next points came off a tip-in no one boxed him out on, and his final points in the quarter came when James lobbed the ball into him behind the Pacer’s defense. They, of course, had to foul him.
The Pacers probably won’t defend Love this poorly again all series, but if Love commits to running the floor and establishing himself on the block early, great things will happen. Mismatches will just occur naturally as the Pacers scurry to stop a sprinting LeBron or Irving while they bring the ball up. It also helps that Love acts decisively with the ball down low, so he isn’t working against an established defender. He’s usually going against a guy who is tap dancing, which is a guy who is very easy to move.
And, if Love can keep getting deep position, it’s only going to help the shooters on the team. Look at the videos above. The Pacers have a really bad habit of helping into the paint anytime the ball starts moving towards the hoop. Love has just four assists so far this series, but he could easily double that in just the next game. I’m looking forward to seeing the Cavs utilize Love and round into form over the coming weeks. His injury may be hurting his rebounding, but offensively he’s looking as good as ever.