Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love broke a bone in his left hand during Tuesday night’s 125-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons and will miss six to eight weeks, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.
“When it rains, it pours,” Coach Tyronn Lue said.
The injury occurred when Love made contact with Detroit’s Anthony Tolliver under the basket a few minutes into the game.
Last week, Love reportedly drew the ire of his teammates during a closed-door meeting over the legitimacy of an illness that cut short his playing time in a 148-120 home loss to the Thunder on Jan. 20. After Tuesday night’s loss, however, the Cavs expressed concern over Love’s injury and the course of a season that has gone increasingly awry.
“It’s just unfortunate for our team,” LeBron James said. “Obviously with everything [that’s] been going on as of late with our ballclub, just trying to figure out how we’re going to play every night, different lineups and getting everybody into the flow, we don’t need to have Kev go out like that. He’s going to be out for quite a while — maybe two months — so it’s just tough.”
Said Isaiah Thomas: “He’s a big part of this team, and it’s gotta be the next-guy-up mentality. As a group, you’ve gotta bring what Kevin does. Not just one guy’s gonna bring what he does, ’cause he’s a special, all-star-caliber player.”
Cleveland has the Eastern Conference’s third-best record at 29-20 but has gone just 6-12 since Dec. 19, mainly because of a defense that is the worst in the NBA in terms of points allowed per 100 possessions. The Cavs have given up at least 102 points in all but two games over their 18-game slide, surrendering at least 110 points in 10 of them. But Cleveland’s defense actually has performed better when Love has been on the bench, allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions compared with the 111.9 points they allow when he’s on the court. When Love and James are on the court together, the Cavs have a 115 defensive rating; when James is playing and Love is sitting, their defensive rating is slightly better at 113.1.
But Cleveland’s offense now has to move forward without its top rebounder, second-leading scorer and third-best shooter from three-point range (40 percent), a player who has been used in four of the team’s five most-used lineups and seven of the top nine. Jae Crowder, who replaced Love in the Cavs’ starting lineup to begin the second half Tuesday night, is shooting just 32.4 percent from three-point range and doesn’t have nearly the post presence that Love has, drawing defenses away from James. None of the team’s other role players seem likely to pick up the slack, either.
“We’ve definitely got enough to weather the storm in his absence,” Crowder said Tuesday, per Cleveland.com. “It’s just a matter of us doing it, doing it collectively and doing it on a nightly basis.”