INDEPENDENCE, Ohio —
The Cavaliers may be back to full strength in the NBA Finals.
Kevin Love, who hasn’t played since the second half of Game 2 because of a concussion, participated in the team’s morning shootaround and could be cleared to play in Game 4 on Friday night against the Golden State Warriors.
Love was taking jump shots when the media was allowed in following the Cavs’ workout. The forward is still following the NBA’s concussion protocol, and whether he plays may not be determined until shortly before game time.
Love sat out Game 3, and the Cavs barely missed him, rolling to a 120-90 win to trim Golden State’s lead to 2-1 in the series, which has included a 33-point blowout by the Warriors in Game 2. In the first half of that game, the three-time All-Star was struck in the back of the head by Golden State’s Harrison Barnes while going for a rebound.
Love left briefly, returned to the game but became dizzy and took himself out in the second half. He was diagnosed with a concussion and has been slowly working his way back since.
With Love out, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue went with a smaller starting lineup in Game 3, playing Richard Jefferson at small forward and moving LeBron James to power forward. The decision worked well as the Cavs scored the game’s first nine points and Jefferson, who has come off the bench all season, finished with 9 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes.
Jefferson has not been told if he’ll start in Game 4, and James wouldn’t offer any preference on the lineup.
“I have an opinion on who’s our general, and that’s coach Lue,” James said. “He’s going to make the right decision that he feels is best for the team. So, I’m a whatever. I think what’s more important is his (Love’s) health and we hope he’s able to play.”
The 35-year-old has been a steadying force on and off the floor this season for Cleveland, which signed him to a one-year contract last summer. Jefferson’s selfless attitude has rubbed off on his teammates.
Jefferson said his mentality can’t change whether he’s starting or coming off the bench.
“You do the exact same thing every single day,” he said. “It’s called being a professional. Because you can not have the mindset on starting and then someone sprains their ankle on the first play of the game and now you’re forced to play 36 minutes. You have to have that ‘always ready’ mindset, if the coach needs you, if you’re not going to be ready if he needs you in the fourth quarter because of a lineup change or — you just have to stay ready. Starting or not starting, it’s always the same approach.”
Cleveland’s quick start — the Cavs jumped to a 19-4 lead — in Game 3 rattled the Warriors, who never recovered after winning Games 1 and 2 at home by a combined 48 points.
James said it’s vital for the Cavs to land the first punch and not let up against league MVP Stephen Curry and his teammates because the Warriors are capable of scoring points in bunches.
“The Warriors are really the toughest team to go against when you’re up,” James said. “When you’re up big on them, you’re really not up big. It’s almost like going against like the Green Bay Packers. If you’re up a couple touchdowns versus Aaron Rodgers, you just know that like, you can’t relax. Because one 60-yard bomb here and 70-yard connection here and now they’re right back in the game.
“And that’s what Golden State do. They’re never too far away from the lead or never too far away from when they’re down to get back into the game. So, you just keep playing.”