The Cavaliers were able to complete the sweep of the Celtics this weekend, but it came with a price. Their star big man Kevin Love suffered an acute anterior inferior glenohumeral dislocation with the corresponding ligament/labrum tearing and humeral head bone bruising after a mix-up with Kelly Olynyk. This injury really sets the second-seeded Cleveland back for an eventual series with the Bulls. Predicting that the Bulls will take care of the Bucks soon (3-1 series lead), here is how Cleveland bounces back.
Is Derrick Rose more of a factor without Love - Chicago is finally healthy with Derrick Rose playing at the top of his game. Love was able to spread the defense out with consistent three-point shooting and was a fantastic rebounder. Rose is looking like his old self and will attack the paint whenever possible. Without Love, Cleveland will likely play LeBron James at power forward quite a bit more. James is a better post defender than Love and is big enough to live down there on defense. Timofey Mozgov will be heavily relied on as the only pure rim protector for Cleveland. With Kyrie Irving on Rose, James is now able to slide down a position without much issue. But Mozogv is the key to stopping Rose with Love gone.
Who makes up Love’s scoring – This is going to be the biggest loss for the Cavs. He was a terrific stretch four and could lead the team in scoring any night. Irving and James will be playing most of the minutes and trying to score every possession. J.R Smith is still facing a suspension after laying out Jae Crowder in the game. Mike Miller could get more playing time, but points are going to be tough to come by. James Jones or someone else has to be more aggressive on offense. This will be the biggest liability for the Cavs without Love. Depending how long J.R Smith is gone, will determine the team with the edge in the series. LeBron could also become his dominant self and score 40 points every night. The biggest thing going for Cleveland is they will have the two best players on the court every night.
Cleveland will have to contain Chicago in the paint- The Cavs only really had two reliable big men on the roster. Without Love, the responsibility falls onto Mozgov and now Kendrick Perkins. Chicago will throw Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson at them all night. The Bulls have the best big men tandem in the NBA and Cleveland has to battle back somehow. LeBron can play some small forward but that means Jimmy Butler could go off without James on him. Rose will also drive and dish it out to an easy open three as well. James Jones might get the start in this series while Love is away. If Cleveland can allow less than 30 paint points per game, it will be considered a success.
Without Kevin Love, the Cavs are not that great of a team. Frankly, they still have LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, they can only do so much. Mozgov will have to look for shots on offense more and needs to play almost the entire game. Iman Shumpurt, Perkins, and Jones will play more because they need all the help they can get. Depending on how dominate LeBron is, will decide the series. The loss of Kevin Love hurts, but Cleveland will find a way to get on top behind the King.