Did Phil Jackson really ask the Cavaliers for Kevin Love in a deal for Carmelo Anthony, as has been reported? Love’s performance at the Garden on Saturday night showed that this might have been a pretty good idea by the Knicks’ president.
Love scored 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds as the Cavaliers outlasted the Knicks, 111-104, in a nationally televised showcase for two teams in the forefront of juicy rumors leading up to the Feb. 23 trade deadline.
Love, who returned Saturday night from a back injury, shot 4-for-7 from three-point range, including a dagger three with 44.4 seconds left after the Knicks cut Cleveland’s 27-point third-quarter lead to five.
Love’s three came off a ridiculously good feed from LeBron James, who threaded the ball between two Knicks to deliver a perfect pass to the wide-open shooter.
Love, who joked about playing under the glare of trade rumors, couldn’t say enough good things about James, who finished with 32 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
“I went to him after the game and said that had everything to do with him,” Love said. “It was like a pregame shot for me. How he fit that through on those two guys. Actually, [Kristaps] Porzin gis went high and he was a little bit late. It went through his arms and I had all the time in the world. That’s just what he does. Unbelievable pass.”
Love made a statement that his back was better when he had 10 points and eight rebounds in the first quarter as the Cavs took a 34-25 lead. He had only one basket in the second quarter, but it brought the Cleveland bench to its feet as Love started at the three-point line and drove past Willy Hernangomez for an emphatic — and rare for him — dunk.
Was that all the trade rumor frustration coming out?
“Oh, so much anger in that dunk,” Love joked. “No. No. I turned down the three points. I wanted to see if I could do the dunk. Blah, blah, blah. There’s a joke in there somewhere.”
But seriously, folks . . . Love said it was not weird playing in New York after the reports surfaced of Jackson’s interest in a megaswap involving Anthony. Nor has Love found himself on pins and needles wondering if he’s going to be an ex-Cavalier in a few weeks.
“My life is so tough,” Love said with a laugh. “The rumor mill . . . I don’t think about it. I don’t really pay attention. I do look at my phone, but it’s not like that’s really crossing my mind or is on top of my mind at all.”
Love is much more concerned with maintaining his health and helping the Cavaliers get on a roll heading into the All-Star break. Coach Tyronn Lue said he hasn’t felt the need to discuss the rumors with Love, who on Saturday night was the best player on the floor not named LeBron.
“That’s who Kevin Love is,” Lue said. “Now that’s a surprise to see him drive the lane and dunk like that. He’s feeling good. He played well for us tonight.”