Apr 27, 2015 6:55 PM
Cavaliers move on without Love, out with dislocated shoulder
The Associated Press
CLEVELAND (AP) The Cavaliers will move forward in the NBA playoffs without Kevin Love and with their title hopes shaken.
Cleveland's starting forward has been ruled out for the team's next playoff series and perhaps longer after sustaining a dislocated left shoulder in Sunday's win to sweep the Boston Celtics.
Love, playing in his first postseason as a pro, got hurt when he got tangled with Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk while chasing a loose ball in the first quarter. Olynyk clamped down on Love's arm and pulled so hard it popped out of the shoulder joint. Love had an MRI and other tests performed Monday and the team said he sustained a dislocation with torn ligaments and labrum.
It's a potentially devastating blow to the Cavs, who are likely to face Chicago in the second round. The Bulls lead the Milwaukee Bucks 3-1 in their best-of-seven series entering Monday night's Game 5.
The Cavs said Love will obtain more medical opinions. There's a possibility Love could need surgery, which would end his postseason.
Cleveland acquired Love last summer in a blockbuster trade, teaming one of the game's best stretch forwards with All-Stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, giving the Cavs a "Big 3" capable of ending the city's championship drought dating to 1964.
The Cavs could also be without starting guard J.R. Smith, who is facing discipline after committing a flagrant 2 foul, prompting his ejection from Game 4 on Sunday. Smith swung backward with a clenched fist and smacked Boston's Jae Crowder in the jaw, dropping the Celtics guard, who sustained a sprained left knee ligament.
The league is still reviewing Sunday's game, which at times looked more MMA than NBA.
Before learning the severity of Love's injury, James, a two-time champion who has been to four straight Finals, said the Cavs would have to overcome any adversity in their way.
"It's next man up, depending on what goes on with our team. That's two big pieces, obviously, but next man up," he said. "No excuses."
Following Sunday's game, Love, who had played well in his first playoff series, said he was convinced Olynyk tried to hurt him.
"I thought it was a bush-league play," said Love, his left arm cradled in a sling. "It's just too bad that he would go to those lengths to take somebody out of the game and do that to someone. I have no doubt in my mind that he did that on purpose."
Love added he hoped the league's ruling would be "swift and just."
Smith's actions could lead to a suspension the Cavs can ill afford with Love gone.
Smith has had few previous problems in Cleveland despite bringing a reputation for late nights and a short fuse when he was traded from New York. While he was remorseful following the game, Smith knew he put the Cavs in a bad spot.
"It's a selfish act because I don't want anything that we do collectively to be taken away by one individual, whether it's me or anybody else," said Smith, who has been suspended in the past.
The Cavs could also lose reserve center Kendrick Perkins. Perkins came in after Love got hurt and flattened Crowder with a high, hard pick, drawing a flagrant 1 but avoiding an ejection.
Cavs coach David Blatt does have options to replace Love. Forward Tristan Thompson was an unsung hero against the Celtics, outworking Boston's big men on the boards. Although he can't score or space the floor like Love, Thompson showed in his first taste of the postseason that he's ready for the stage.
Blatt can offset Smith's absence by giving more playing time to Iman Shumpert, the team's best perimeter defender. Shumpert was slated to be Cleveland's starting "off" guard alongside Kyrie Irving, but had a lingering shoulder injury when he arrived from the Knicks and Blatt liked the energy he provided to the second unit.
Cleveland also has veterans Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones all NBA champions on the bench.