OAKLAND — Down 2-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals after an embarrassing blowout loss, the Cleveland Cavaliers are not in a great place. And with the uncertainty about Kevin Love‘s status, it could be about to get worse.
In the second quarter, with the Cavs trailing 39-30, Love caught an elbow to the head from Harrison Barnes and stayed down several minutes. He remained in the game after that, even hitting a three-pointer, after telling trainers he didn’t have any concussion symptoms.
That changed shortly into the second half, when Love abruptly left the game for the locker room, and the Cavs later announced that he had, in fact, been diagnosed with a concussion.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love experienced dizziness after returning to play at the start of the second half of tonight’s NBA Finals Game 2. He was taken to the locker room for further examination. As a result of that exam, Love was placed in the NBA Concussion Protocol and did not return to play. Love did not exhibit any signs or symptoms during the first half, or at halftime, that would have caused him to be placed in the concussion protocol prior to the third quarter. His status will be updated as appropriate.
“I didn’t even know what happened, but at halftime he showed no symptoms,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. “He didn’t talk about it. Then when we came back out in the third quarter, I could see in a timeout he looked kind of woozy. He went back on the floor for a second, and then we had to get him off the floor.”
The Cavs will fly to Cleveland on Monday and have two days off before Game 3 of the Finals. We’ll know more about Love’s status by then, and it seems likely he’ll miss at least the next game.
Lue wouldn’t commit to a replacement in the starting lineup if Love was indeed unable to play, but he has options. Channing Frye only played four minutes in Game 2, but he brings much of the same floor-spacing ability that Love does at the power forward position. Lue could also slide LeBron James to power forward and move Iman Shumpert into the starting lineup alongside Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith. Even Timofey Mozgov, who played the entire fourth quarter with the Cavs down big, could be an option if Lue wanted to change his strategy, since going small against the Warriors hasn’t paid off thus far.
Love wasn’t helping them much in his 20 minutes on the floor before the injury — when he went to the locker room, he had 5 points on 2-for-7 shooting. Given his limitations on the defensive end, Love hasn’t been effective against the Warriors’ deep, versatile frontcourt.
Still, losing him takes away some lineup flexibility from the Cavs, and if he misses the next game, it will force Lue to make a significant change to the rotation and starting lineup without having a choice in the matter.
But we won’t know Love’s status until closer to Game 3. Until then, all that’s left to do is wait.
“Losing one of our top three players is always going to be a big impact,” Lue said. “But right now he’s in a concussion protocol, and right now he’s just day-to-day.”