The Cleveland Cavaliers are clicking at precisely the right time. After completing their sweep of the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, they’re now a perfect 8-0 in the postseason. Their Big 3 are finally starting to develop some chemistry, which has suddenly transformed their playing style into the type of run-and-gun offensive free-for-all that makes rival teams like the Warriors so deliriously-fun to watch.
A big part of that for the Cavs, and specifically for head coach Tyronn Lue, has been figuring out how to get Kevin Love more involved. It turns out a lot of that had to do with basic psychology. One of the primary reasons Cavs brass parted ways with David Blatt was because they believed Lue could connect better with the players. Being younger and being a former player himself, he could speak their language.
That’s apparently what it took to get Love out of the doldrums and back to being one of the league’s most dominant power forwards. Here’s what Lue said to Love after Cleveland’s humiliating loss to the Brooklyn Nets back in March that sparked his resurgence. Via Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:
“And I said, ‘Kevin, you got to be more aggressive. Tell LeBron, I’m a bad m—–f—– too, so throw me the ball.’ Be aggressive. Run the floor. If you’re open, we got to throw you the ball. You got to demand the basketball and I said, ‘Score the ball and be aggressive.'”
The results speak for themselves. Not only have the Cavs been winning; they’ve been doing it in spectacular fashion. They rained down hellfire on the Hawks from behind the arc in Games 2 and 3, and it was Love who got in on the fun in Game 4 as he shot 8-of-12 from long-range and led the way with 27 points and 13 rebounds. It was his eighth consecutive double-double of the playoffs.
He was also quick to acknowledge that it was absolutely Lue’s pep talk that helped him rediscover his confidence. Via ESPN.com:
“I mean, Ty has played with, and had to go against, a lot of bad m—-f——. So to get that, especially from your head coach, it’s a lot of confidence,” Love said. He was alluding to Lue’s playing days when he teamed up with the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki and, the baddest of them all, Michael Jordan. “And I have been one in this league. [Lue] just wanted me to go out there and show it.”
Cavs fans have every reason to be ecstatic. But there’s still the lingering question of whether they might be playing with fool’s gold. Sure, they’ve stormed through the Eastern Conference so far, but it’s still the Eastern Conference. The Hawks had one of the best defenses in the league this season, but it’s probably light years behind what the Cavs will eventually face from either the Spurs or Warriors. Those two teams also have vastly-superior offenses compared to anything Cleveland will see during the rest of their run through the East.
Regardless, getting Love back on track was priority number one if they wanted any chance at all of truly contending for a title this year, and Lue and his way with words has helped them accomplish that in spades.