It won’t be LeBron. Or Steph. Or KD. Or Klay. Or even Kyrie.
Nah, when the 2017 NBA Finals is done and settled, the one guy who will have had the biggest impact on which team wins or loses is Kevin Love.
Granted, he may be the least talented of those mentioned here – although, if you peruse through their entire playing careers, overall skill sets and parts in commercials, that may be highly debatable. Thing is, that doesn’t matter.
What does is his being the X-factor to the equation staring at a sports nation in dire need of some quality playoff basketball action.
For all the greatness brought forth by game’s best player, the electric sharpshooting of the Warriors’ trio and the dynamic dribbling of the King’s primary sidekick, none of that tips the scale as much as Love’s penchant for teetering on the edge of good and bad, with such varying degrees of what each is.
Put it this way, when he’s on, Love is so damn good you almost wonder if he ain’t the most valuable, if not best, performer Cleveland has … even with James playing at his all-out, balls-out, brilliant level. Or he can be the worst player on the floor, just a bumbling, disoriented fool in baggy shorts with apparently no clue on how to play, or at least even act like he can.
No doubt, the veteran forward, himself on the statistical fast track to the Hall of Fame before opting to join forces with LeBron and Kyrie in Cleveland to chase down championships, brings a maddeningly frustrating act to the table. Because you never really what he’s going to be on any given night, in any given situation.
When people point to Golden State’s six-game knockout in the first title bout between these heavyweights two years ago, they tend to forget Love wasn’t even there. He’d been forced to take a powder thanks to Boston’s Kelly Olynyk taking his non-shooting in a direction it was never supposed to go in an earlier playoff series. A year ago, when the Cavs returned the favor, Love wasn’t much of a factor, either, averaging 7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds, not to mention serious pine time at crucial junctures.
But in Cleveland’s dispatching of the Celtics, four games to one, in the Eastern Conference finals, the 6-foot-10 “stretch 4” looked like his old Minnesota self, the guy who got LeBron’s attention so much so that he pushed for Love’s signing in order to make his own reappearance at “home” a reality and Kyrie’s so much that he had Love playing a starring role in the Uncle Drew ads for Pepsi.
Love was raining 3s on Boston and racking up the boards, and looking “with it” and, gulp, almost athletic in the process. Dude averaged 22.6 points in the series, shooting a ridiculous 53.5 percent from beyond the arc. In one game he had 17 rebounds. In none did he haul down any fewer than double digits.
Yo, if Cleveland gets anywhere near that kind of production for its third wheel against the Warriors, this series will be over quick … and not in favor of who the experts have labeled the favorites.
If it doesn’t, well, LeBron will get another chance to expand his legend – whether anyone will care to acknowledge it or not.