Instead of being shut down for the remainder of the season, Love decided to return to the Cavaliers lineup with intention of participating in each of the team’s remaining contests. In the midst of their lottery pursuits, the Cavaliers continue to win.
The Cavaliers are still in a prime position to draft atop the lottery. Despite the outside perception on tanking, the Cavaliers locker room doesn’t seem to care, including Love himself.
In a report by Jason Lloyd of The Athletic, Love responded to the question of tanking and how the Cavaliers are able to balance attention between the team’s current structure and NBA draft. In addition, Love said he had no intentions on sitting out the rest of the season.
“I want to get the best out of myself and I just want to be really good to my teammates. When we’re out here, we’re having fun. We’re getting the most out of it, but we’re also having fun. It’s a funny position to be in because there are such exceptional talents in this draft. There are four to five guys who are really, really good. It’s a funny position to be in. I’ve worked my ass off. I’ve kept myself in shape. Just finding that motivation to keep pursuing and feeling great because I do feel really good. And when they tell me I’m playing, I’m playing,” Love told The Athletic.
Clearly, since Love returned, it doesn’t appear the Cavaliers want to tank. In addition, Love has been the main catalyst for the team’s success.
Since his return, Love has averaged 18 points, 9.5 rebound and 1.2 assists per game. Considering the minutes restriction, the numbers prove Love’s injury hasn’t held him back.
In their victory against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 23, Love scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 32 minutes.
While the Cavaliers are 5-2 since Love’s return, it’s not just his contributions that propelled the team to an impressive, post all-star break stretch.
Cedi Osman entered the season with reasonable expectations. While his statistics never exemplified it, Osman’s rookie season built itself upon promise and potential. The majority of the 2018-2019 season, Osman experienced offensive struggles. For a while, his sophomore campaign proved that even on a mediocre team, Osman wasn’t a starter.
In tandem with Love, Osman continues to help the Cavaliers improve. He’s scored in double digits in his last twelve games, even having games when he’d score 26, 27 and 29 points.
During their recent stretch, Osman continues to achieve success, both offensively and defensively. But like the majority of Cavaliers headlines this season, it all goes back toward Love, the aforementioned veteran largely responsible for the turnaround in Cleveland.
Larry Nance Jr. told reporters the impact Love has on the Cavaliers. In addition, the respect he commands from the opposing defenders, allowing the rookie Collin Sexton to get better looks from the field.
“His gravity is ridiculous. He just pulls everybody towards him on the defensive end,” Nance told Basketball Insiders. “You can see Cedi hitting wide open shots, Collin getting open shots, Collin being able to attack close-outs, both of them. When a guy like that is on the court, it’s a major advantage.”
Since February 11, the Cavaliers are second in win differential and 10th overall in offensive efficiency rating. During much of the season, Cleveland ranked toward the bottom of these statistical categories.
After their victory against the Orlando Magic on Sunday, it’s clear the players themselves aren’t interested in tanking, despite their lackluster performances all season.
“It’s funny to say…like it seems a little bit elementary, but we’re having fun.” Love told reporters after their 107-93 win against Orlando. “It’s always fun to win. But we’re sharing the ball, we’re moving the ball, we’re playing for each other and I think we’re making steps and strides in the right direction.”
Right now, the Cavaliers record stands at 16-48. Despite their recent success, the organization is in no immediate danger of losing their chances at the 2019 NBA Draft lottery. The team will look to build off their recent success during the remainder of the season, likely to some fans’ chagrin.
Editor’s note: Statistics aren’t included from Cavaliers mots recent contest against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.
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