Cavaliers might be all out of Love
Cleveland — Already underdogs, the Cavaliers might also be undermanned for Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
They remain undaunted.
The Cavaliers practiced Tuesday without starting forward Kevin Love, who is following the league’s concussion protocol after being struck in the back of the head by Golden State’s Harrison Barnes during Sunday night’s Game 2 blowout loss.
Love stayed in the locker room while his teammates practiced on the floor at Quicken Loans Arena, where they are 7-0 in this postseason and will have 20,000 screaming fans on their side for the next two games. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Love is feeling better, but his status for Game 3 — and the remainder of the series — hinges on him passing several physical tests and getting cleared to play.
Love might be uncertain. LeBron James, on the other hand, is positive the Cavaliers can’t let anything become a distraction.
“Next man up,” James said. “We’re down 0-2, and we can’t afford to look and say: ‘Wow, Kev’s not playing. What are we going to do?’ It’s next man up because it’s a must-win for us. So obviously his health is very important, but in the situation we’re in now, we’ve got to stay confident.”
If Love can’t play, Lue will have to replace 16.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. A potential move is bringing back Russian center Timofey Mozgov, who was disappointing in the regular season and has been exiled to the bench.
The 7-foot-1 Mozgov was Cleveland’s second-leading scorer in last year’s Finals against the Warriors, who switched to a smaller lineup to drive him off the floor.
One thing that Lue and his staff will change is the approach when it comes to physicality: Cleveland had success when it got aggressive with the Warriors in last year’s Finals, so it’s a reasonable assumption that the Cavaliers will try it again tonight.
Lue considered other lineup changes in hopes of slowing the Warriors, who won the first two games by a combined 48 points despite sub-standard performances by shooting stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, whose splashes have been mere sprinkles so far.
“We’ve thought about it, we’ve talked about it, but I can’t let you know what we’re planning on doing,” Lue said with a laugh.
Lue’s first postseason as a head coach has been relatively uneventful. He’s made savvy moves, kept his players focused despite a few lengthy breaks between series and handled the daily circus surrounding any team James plays on with a steadying hand.
But despite his team’s 33-point loss in Game 2, Lue has faith the Cavaliers will respond.
“We’ve just got to execute,” he said.
Curry: Zika no Rio factor
Stephen Curry said he understands the risk of the Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro, but the Warriors star said the epidemic did not factor into his choice to withdraw from Olympic consideration.
“I followed the reports and kind of got educated on that, but at the end of the day that didn’t have a bearing on my decision,” Curry said before practice at Quicken Loans Arena in advance of Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Curry reiterated what he said in his official announcement a day earlier: That his body needs time to recover from an injury-plagued postseason.
Magic to help S.C. State
NBA and former Michigan State great Earvin “Magic” Johnson will work with South Carolina State University to raise $2.5 million for scholarships that bear his name.
The university announced in a release Monday that the Earvin “Magic” Johnson Endowed Scholarship Fund will help students seeking business degrees at the state-supported, historically black university in Orangeburg.
Johnson spoke at the school last year and said he would work to strengthen the university. More details about the scholarship are expected to be released Saturday during a fundraising event in Washington.
The announcement comes amid a sharp increase in giving to the university. Private donations are up more than 360 percent over last year to $4.2 million, while donations from alumni are up more than 80 percent to almost $975,000.