Kevin Love is never going to be a lock-down defensive stopper, but he doesn’t need to be. He just needs to fit the team defensive system the Cavaliers put in place and give a real effort on that end of the court.
Love knows that. And coach David Blatt says he is doing just that.
The Cavaliers have played improved defense of late — in the last three games their opponents have shot a combined 40.4 percent — and Kyrie Irving got some credit for that as he had a strong game against John Wall and he has been more active on that end.
“In general, I would like to say, I think Kevin Love is playing the best defense of his career so far,” Blatt said. “He can get better like all of us can, but he’s doing a good job. He’s buying into the system, into the principles, and he needs to continue to do that and we need to continue to involve him in the way that we are.”
“I’ve never really been known for that in my career,” Love said. “Being a lockdown defender is something that I know I’ll never be, but as far as being a team defender, being in the right spots, being physical, doing those things, I can get a lot better at that and just continue to break down film and see where I can get better out there. So yeah, I think it’s something that I can continue to buy into and get better at.”
Love’s play has improved at both ends — he’s getting more touches in the post and as a result is shooting 58 percent over his last four games. When he plays well offensively, when he has energy on that end it seems to carry over.
The Cavs still need a real rim protector on defense — a virtual necessity in today’s NBA for elite teams — but what we are seeing from the Cleveland is part of the evolution. It was always going to take time, particularly on defense. It has.
The question is how much more it evolves between now and mid-April when the playoffs start. And are we saying these same things about Kevin Love’s defensive effort.