If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to make the 2016 NBA Finals competitive, they’re going to have to do so without one of their best players. Kevin Love has reportedly been ruled out of Game 3 on Wednesday as the Cavs host the Golden State Warriors for the first time in the series.
Cleveland’s starting forward won’t play after suffering a concussion in Game 2 when Harrison Barnes elbowed him in the back of the head while going up for a rebound. ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Love is “really frustrated” with the Cavs’ decision to keep him on the sidelines, but Cleveland’s bench will have to step up and play much better than they did in the first two games at Golden State.
LeBron James had his share of struggles in Game 1 and Game 2, shooting just 42.1 percent from the field and turning the ball over 11 times. But he carried the team for much of his time on the court, nearly averaging a triple-double, while getting little assistance from his supporting cast.
In Love’s absence, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson will likely see increased playing time. Frye was a key part of Cleveland’s 12-2 record in the first three rounds of the playoffs, making 26 of his 45 three-pointers. But he’s only logged 11 minutes against Golden State, attempting one shot from behind the arc.
Jefferson, who’s in his 15th NBA season and played against Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue in the 2002 NBA Finals, has been one of the team’s most productive players this series. He’s averaging 7.5 points on 55.6 percent shooting, and he averaged just 5.3 points in the previous three rounds.
The Cavs need better games from Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, as well, though it might be too little too late. Both players are capable of going on a hot streak, which would be a refreshing change of pace given how the Cavs played in Oakland.
Only two teams have ever come back from a 2-0 deficit in the finals, and the Warriors haven’t lost four of five games since January 2014.
Cleveland is a long shot to come back and win the series, but they are slight favorites on Wednesday night. Oddsmakers have the Cavs favored by one point, making the Warriors underdogs for just the second time this postseason. The over/under is 204.5 points.
Stephen Curry and Co. were underdogs in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals before making a late-game come back to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Start Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Online Stream: WatchESPN