The Cleveland Cavaliers announced Saturday that forward Kevin Love will not play in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Love exited the Cavs’ Game 6 win Friday in the first quarter after a head-to-head collision with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum.
The 29-year-old veteran entered the NBA’s concussion protocol in March after taking an elbow to the mouth, and he also missed Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors with a concussion, per ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin.
Love has struggled at times in these playoffs, with averages of 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. He is also shooting just 38.8 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from the three-point range.
He was an All-Star during the regular season, averaging 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the floor and 41.5 percent from long range.
Love was Cleveland’s starting center for all but one game in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but head coach Tyronn Lue has inserted Tristan Thompson into the lineup in the last five games of the conference finals, allowing Love to play the power forward role he is more accustomed to.
That has helped the Cavs on the rebounding front, but the offense continues to run almost exclusively through LeBron James.
Though Love has struggled to find his rhythm during the playoffs, his mere presence on the floor is key because of the threat he provides as an open shooter when James breaks down the defense.
Kyle Korver and JR Smith do the same, but Love is the only stretch big the Cavaliers have, and his absence in Game 7 should give the Celtics a significant advantage.
Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr. played more than usual with Love missing all but five minutes of Game 6, and that figures to be the case again in Game 7.
The Cavs will lose some big-time offensive potential with Love on the shelf, but Green’s veteran savvy and Nance’s defensive excellence figure to be useful in the win-or-go home situation.
SOURCE: Bleacher Report – Mike Chiari