On Monday, we learned that Kevin Love would "be unavailable for" the entire Eastern Conference semifinals after suffering a dislocated left shoulder midway through the first quarter of the Cleveland Cavaliers' series-clinching Game 4 win over the Boston Celtics. On Tuesday, Cavs general manager David Griffin told reporters he expected the three-time All-Star power forward to be sidelined for a lot longer than that: [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] David Griffin says its "highly unlikely" that Kevin Love returns at any point during the playoffs. — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 28, 2015 #Cavs GM David Griffin says Kevin Love likely done for season, shoulder extensively damaged. — Tom Withers (@twithersAP) April 28, 2015 Griffin says surgery possible for Love. #Cavs — Tom Withers (@twithersAP) April 28, 2015 That timeline for Love's recovery from his shoulder injury — in medical parlance, an "acute anterior inferior glenohumeral dislocation with the corresponding ligament/labrum tearing and humeral head bone bruising," according to the Cavs' Monday evening update — obviously far exceeds previous reported estimates that he might miss a couple of weeks, and falls more in line with the dire picture painted by Jeff Stotts of injury-focused blog In Street Clothes : The return to play time following shoulder dislocation appears to be dependent on the amount of damage to the surrounding tissues, particularly the labrum. If the tear is small and the instability is minimal, general rehab can improve the area with a focus on improving the musculature surrounding the joint. Surgery may still be warranted down the road but it can be delayed. Still the associated pain and swelling often requires time to heal. Additionally, even if this ends up being an option for Love, the risk for re-injury would be considerable for the remainder of the postseason. A significant labrum tear would likely require immediate surgery and force Love to miss a substantial amount of time. Stotts' injury database, which covers the past 3 1/2 years , includes "18 in-season injuries classified as complete dislocations." Fourteen of those 18 players missed at least 10 games following their injuries, with eight requiring surgical repair. It sounds like Love's going to join their number. Griffin wouldn't slam the door completely — “I still have a sliver of hope for something very late, but highly unlikely,” he said, according to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal — but that seems to be one awfully slim sliver, according to this follow-up from Bleacher Report national NBA writer Howard Beck: To be clear, source adds: There's virtually zero chance Love plays again this postseason, even if Cavs make the Finals. — Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 28, 2015 As I wrote Monday night , the Cavaliers offense has been lights out with Love and middling without him this season. But due to his steady presence in the Cavaliers lineup this season — 75 appearances, more than 2,500 minutes, despite dealing with recurring lower back issues — there haven't been many opportunities for Cleveland to test-drive lineup combinations without him and find solutions that might minimize the loss of his spacing, rebounding and playmaking; Cleveland could well have some viable answers in-house that just haven't needed to be explored just yet. One particularly enticing adjustment: four-time MVP LeBron James sliding from small forward to power forward, as he did so successfully during the Miami Heat's runs to the NBA finals. Small-ball lineups featuring James at the four necessitate deploying an additional wing player at the three, which helps replace Love's shooting and floor-spacing while allowing LeBron to work out of the post, hunt double-teams and orchestrate the Cleveland offense from the block.
Now that the dust's settled, we can start picking through the fallout from Sunday's wild Game 4 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics, which sent the C's home for the summer and will send the Cavs into the second round without two-fifths of the starting lineup that torched the league over the last three months of the regular season. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball] The Cavaliers announced Monday that power forward Kevin Love "will be unavailable for" the entire Eastern Conference semifinals after suffering a dislocated left shoulder midway through the first quarter of Game 4, and that an update on his status beyond that — provided the Cavs make it beyond that, that is — "will be determined over the next several days." The NBA later announced that Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith has been suspended for two games for striking Boston's Jae Crowder in the face during the third quarter of Game 4; that the Celtics' Kelly Olynyk has been suspended for one game for his role in Love's shoulder dislocation; and that Cleveland center Kendrick Perkins had been fined $15,000 for his illegal screen on and subsequent shove of Crowder during the second quarter. (Perk had initially been assessed a flagrant foul-1. That was upgraded to a flagrant-2 upon further review, leading to the assessment of the fine.) Let's start with the biggest-ticket item first. Here's the first-quarter tangle between Love and Olynyk on which Love sustained his shoulder injury: Love said after the game that there was "no doubt in [his] mind" that Olynyk purposely locked onto and yanked his arm to prevent him from retrieving a contested rebound, terming it a "bush-league play." Olynyk later denied intending to injure Love , noting that the Cleveland forward "locked my arm up" first, and that the interior scuffle was the kind of play that happens all the time in NBA games without anything significant coming of it: "If you get tangled up and he doesn’t dislocate his shoulder, there’s nothing dirty ever said or anything. It’s just a foul." That's probably right, but Love did dislocate his shoulder, which is probably why Olynyk's going to wind up missing the first game of next season. Whether you think it's odd that Olynyk seemed to receive a punishment based less on his action than on its result, or that he only got one game for making what most observers agree was at the very least not a particularly cool play, likely depends on A) whether or not you've got personal experience with getting armbarred in pursuit of a rebound and B) your feelings toward fellas in green-and-white uniforms. The Cavs' Monday evening update has more details on Love's condition: His shoulder was assessed, reduced in the locker room, immobilized and he did not return to the game. X-rays and a MRI have been performed, as well as further evaluation at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health today by Cavaliers head team physician Dr. Richard D. Parker and Dr. Mark Schickendantz. Evaluation and imaging have defined the extent of the injury: an acute anterior inferior glenohumeral dislocation with the corresponding ligament/labrum tearing and humeral head bone bruising. Currently, Love is undergoing training room treatments while additional opinions are being obtained and treatment options being explored. That pursuit of opinions and options apparently isn't expected to get the three-time All-Star back in working order at any point in the next couple of weeks, removing a valuable floor-spacer, rebounder and supplementary playmaker from the high-powered offensive attack that Cleveland rode to 53 wins and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Much was made of Love's individual decline this year. The former Minnesota Timberwolves superstar's scoring average dropped by nearly 10 points per game in his first season in Cleveland. He posted the worst full-season shooting percentage and lowest rebounding percentage of his career, and the share of team offensive possessions on which he notched an assist during Year 1 in Cleveland was cut in half from his final season in the Twin Cities. He seemed frequently to struggle with operating as a third or fourth option, working off the ball on the perimeter and waiting for his chances rather than getting the ball early and often and being counted on to create them himself. This led to year-long questions about fitting in and fitting out , the status of the relationship between Love and LeBron James, and reports that Love's frustrations with the setup in Cleveland could lead him to opt out of the final year of his current contract to seek opportunities elsewhere in free agency this summer. A funny thing happened amid all that rancor, though: the Cavs ranked fourth in the NBA in offensive efficiency this season, scoring an average of 107.7 points per 100 possessions, and they were five full points-per-100 better in the 2,500-plus minutes that Love was on the floor (109.5-per-100) than in the 1,400-plus minutes when he wasn't available (104.5-per-100), according to NBA.com's stat tool. Cleveland's six most frequently used five-man units during the regular season featured Love, with five outscoring the opposition by rates ranging from respectable (+3 points-per-100 for Love-LeBron-Kyrie Irving-Shawn Marion-Anderson Varejao; +3.2-per-100 for Love-Kyrie-Smith-Iman Shumpert-Tristan Thompson) to rampaging (+19.3-per-100 for the Love-LeBron-Kyrie-Smith-Timofey Mozgov starting five, +28.2-per-100 for the small-ball Love-LeBron-Irving-Marion-Thompson lineup). Even if he himself didn't always seem comfortable with his role in the offense and wasn't always confidently stepping into and knocking down the shots he did get, the sheer threat of the 6-foot-10 bomber created more room for James and Irving to operate in the half-court, helping grease the skids for dribble penetration that created all those tasty dump-offs for Mozgov dunks or kickouts for wide-open catch-and-shoot 3-pointers by J.R. His presence mattered, a trend that continued in the postseason, as Cleveland torched the Celtics to the tune of 120.5 points-per-100 with Love on the court in Round 1, compared to just 97.2 points-per-100 when he sat. No Cleveland group without Love logged more than 75 minutes this season. The one that did — the starting lineup with reserve power forward Thompson in Love's place — got outscored by seven points in those 75 minutes, producing points at a top-10-caliber clip (105.7 points-per-100) but hemorrhaging them on the other end (114.5-per-100, leagues below the worst full-season defensive efficiency marks in the NBA this season). Thompson's lack of shooting prowess allows opponents to plug the lane, making it more difficult for even excellent board-crashers like he and Mozgov to pull down offensive rebounds, while the lack of space and the removal of another capable playmaker helped create a spike in turnovers and opponents' points off them. Your standard small-sample-size caveats apply here, but it's worth noting that there's a reason why the Love starting lineup got 400 more minutes than this one — it worked better, and made more sense. Making matters worse, the Cavaliers will also be without Smith, who earned himself a suspension for the second postseason in three years by lashing out during a game his team had in hand at the TD Garden. Here's his swinging backfist that caught Crowder in the cruller: Smith said after the game that he was "nervous as hell" he'd be suspended after clocking Crowder, who had barreled down the paint, crashed into Smith and leaned down on Smith's shoulder blades with his right forearm in a very physical attempt to establish rebounding position. Well, at least now he can stop worrying. Shortly after news of the suspension broke, Smith expressed his remorse via Instagram: "Not the player I want to be not the player I want my teammates [and] family to see not the person I want the fans to see but I will be better!" Smith wrote in the caption of his Instagram post . "I must be better as a player [and] as a Person! #TheLand It's a sweet sentiment and all, but ... well, we've been here before, J.R. Also: that's two times in three years that JR Smith has hurt his team by getting suspended in the postseason. — Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 27, 2015 And that, folks, is why JR Smith had so little value on the trade market, and why the Knicks had to include Shumpert in the deal. — Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) April 27, 2015 Smith's reputational issues aside, his absence for Games 1 and 2 of the conference semifinals seem to constitute a significant problem for the Cavs in the here and now, because if you thought we were talking about small sample sizes in looking at Cleveland lineups without Love, things get even rougher when you look for Cavs units without Love and Smith. The most frequently used non-Love-and-Smith groups also featured Matthew Dellavedova, who made 13 starts in place of Irving due to injury. Those units met with mixed results: • LeBron, Shumpert, Thompson, James Jones, Matthew Dellavedova: 68 total minutes spread over 15 appearances, 101.9 points scored per 100 possessions, 111.8 points allowed per 100, -9.8 net rating • LeBron, Shumpert, Mozgov, Thompson, Dellavedova: 40 total minutes spread over 11 appearances, 105.8 points scored per 100 possessions, 66.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, +39.6 net rating • LeBron, Shumpert, Marion, Thompson, Dellavedova: 34 total minutes spread over seven appearances, 108.8 points scored per 100 possessions, 116 points allowed per 100 possessions, -7.2 net rating The likeliest scenario for head coach David Blatt might be to start out with Thompson in place of Love and Shumpert, fresh off a strong Game 4 performance and sound work throughout the sweep in stalling Boston sparkplug Isaiah Thomas, in place of Smith. Should the matchup bear out that way, Thompson's activity on the interior could help Mozgov do battle with a burly Chicago Bulls frontcourt. While Shumpert's nowhere near the knockdown long-distance shooter that Smith's been over the course of his career, he can hit open 3s in a pinch while offering a more capable perimeter-defending option against the likes of Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler; maybe that trade-off can help mitigate the offensive dropoff for a couple of games. But those choices could produce undesirable outcomes, too. With no fear of being burned by Thompson's shooting and less fear of Shumpert than Smith, you'd suspect the Bulls (or, to be fair, the Bucks) would load up even more heavily on Irving's drives, James' post-ups and Mozgov's interior touches, aiming to choke Cleveland's offense out on the interior. If that proves unsuccessful, Blatt figures to find himself hoping that Jones or mothballed Mike Miller can come back from the fringes of utility just enough to knock down some shots and open up some breathing room for James and Irving to operate without being roasted on the other end. Failing that, Blatt can flip the switch and slot LeBron in at the four with Shump at the three and Dellavedova alongside Irving in a two-point-guard backcourt, which could provide enough shooting to open things up for James and keep Chicago's defense honest. Then again, that'd leave Cleveland's bench awfully thin, while also perhaps marginalizing Thompson, one of the few legitimately useful reserves in the arsenal. The matchups — especially against a seemingly healthy and surging Chicago squad — aren't exactly appealing. Blatt knew he'd be facing a significant challenge when he accepted the offer to leave Maccabi Tel Aviv and take Cleveland's reins after four straight sub-.500 finishes. Thanks to the LeBron and Love trades, and then the Mozgov, Smith and Shumpert trades, he wound up having to deal with a much different set of issues than he initially expected. Now, though, the Cavaliers' chances of staying afloat in a second-round series and keeping their championship hopes alive could well rest on whether the combination of Blatt's lineup management and the playmaking genius of James and Irving can be strong enough to withstand a massive in-postseason shakeup. - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
When Kelly Olynyk grabbed Kevin Love's left arm and yanked the All-Star's shoulder from its socket on Sunday, it most certainly wasn't a clean play for the loose ball, resulting in a foul on the Celtics center. But was it a dirty play? That has been the subject of much debate in NBA circles since the Cavaliers finished off their first-round sweep, especially once Love suggested Olynyk purposefully injured him. Kevin Love: "I thought it was a bush-league play ... I have no doubt in my mind that he did it on purpose" — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 26, 2015 More Kevin Love: "That's just not a basketball play ... The league will take a look at it and it better be swift and just" — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 26, 2015 While Love's frustration is understandable — particularly upon learning he could miss a minimum of two weeks with the dislocated shoulder, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst — it's bold to advance a theory that an opposing player willfully sidelined someone for, quite possibly, an entire second-round series. Olynyk definitely does not agree with that theory, telling the Boston Herald as much on Sunday night. “That’s ridiculous,” Olynyk told the Herald last night. “I would never intentionally hurt Kevin or anyone else. He locked my arm up, I locked up his as we were fighting for a loose ball. You lock up arms all the time in this league.” [...] “I wish him a very speedy recovery, and I hope he can come back to help his team in the playoffs,” Olynyk said. [...] “I was definitely surprised (by what Love said),” he said. “In basketball, I don’t think anyone is trying to hurt anyone. For (Love), it’s very unfortunate. I know they’re trying to make a run right now.” For what it's worth, Celtics coach Brad Stevens defended his stretch center, sharing what many who have been around the team for the past two seasons would say when it comes to the soft-spoken Canadian: "I can’t imagine there was any negative intent on Kelly; that’s not the type of person he is." Likewise, Celtics teammate Evan Turner laughed at the notion Olynyk would purposefully hurt Love. "Literally, if you ask anyone in our locker room, Kelly can't box out to save his life," Turner told reporters in the aftermath of an ugly Game 4. "No joke. He boxes out teammates like that all the time in practice." Meanwhile, Cleveland's LeBron James and Kyrie Irving came to their teammate's defense, agreeing with Love's sentiment that Olynyk's arm bar was "just not a basketball play." And as everyone inside TD Garden weighed in on the dirtiness of the tie-up, so too did several former NBA players on Twitter. Absolutely intentional and absolutely should have been a foul. Did he mean to pull his arm out of socket? HELL NO! https://t.co/3pDuIry5Jm — Malik Rose (@MalikRose) April 27, 2015 Seconds earlier @marcelluswiley roles reversed - Kelly trying to pull his arm free - #ItsPartOfTheGame #Unfortunate pic.twitter.com/B6asRILxiS — Rick Fox (@RickFox) April 27, 2015 In the end, we're left where we started. The play was dirty in the sense that it wasn't clean, but to suggest Olynyk wanted to remove Love's shoulder from its socket is probably a bit of stretch. As the second-year Celtics big man told The Boston Globe on Monday , would we even be debating this if — as happens countless times over the course of every NBA game — he clutched Love's arm and didn't injure him? "I’d probably get killed if I went to Cleveland right now. I don’t think if someone gave me their arm and I was running forward like that and locked up, I don’t think I could dislocate someone’s arm if I tried. I think it’s a real tough thing to do. Like I said before, it’s kind of ridiculous to say you intentionally meant to. I’d never intentionally hurt someone, him or anybody else for that matter. I don’t think anybody goes out trying to hurt anyone. I think it’s just real unfortunate. If you get tangled up and he doesn’t dislocate his shoulder, there’s nothing dirty ever said or anything. It’s just a foul. So I just really hope he can get back as soon as possible and help that team keep making a push." Olynyk reportedly reached out to Love's camp and is open to apologizing "if the time is right and if someone thinks it's appropriate." And while Love awaits that phone call, Cavaliers teammate J.R. Smith anticipates word from the NBA front office on his availability for the team's second-round series against the Bucks or (more likely) the Bulls. He too claimed "there was nothing malicious about" a vicious elbow to Jae Crowder's head that knocked the Celtics forward to the ground and sprained his left MCL. - - - - - - - Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don't Lie and Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach
|Adrian Wojnarowski||Los Angelesin 7||The 2-3-2 format is such an advantage to the home team. Just don't see a way Kobe doesn't close out in a Game 6 or 7 at Staples. Chance for epic series between these two teams full of great players and great winners.|
|Marc J. Spears||Los Angelesin 7||The Lakers have no one to slow down Rajon Rondo, but Kobe Bryant is playing on a higher level offensively than anyone in the postseason.|
|Johnny Ludden||Los Angelesin 7||For all the injuries he's dealt with, Kobe looks remarkably fresh. He'll need to trust his teammates more than he did in '08, but they'll also give him more of a reason to do so.|
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