Kevin Love clears concussion protocol, will start Game 1 on Thursday night

Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star big man Kevin Love has cleared the concussion protocol and will play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers announced Thursday afternoon.

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Kevin Love missed time in Eastern Conference Finals

Love, 29, went down after colliding with the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum just minutes into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Cavaliers managed a 109-99 win in Game 6 and then advanced to their fourth straight NBA Finals with an 87-79 win in Game 7 at TD Garden in Boston.

Having Kevin Love back is a huge help

Love averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this regular season while battling through a long list of injuries, and he has averaged 13.9 points and 10.0 rebounds in the playoffs. He is the only player on the Cavaliers other than LeBron James who is averaging double-digits points in the postseason.

Love is a dependable 3-point shooter — he shot 41.5 percent from deep this season — and a terrific rebounder. When he is involved early and often, Cleveland plays its best basketball. He averaged 20.5 points and 11.5 boards in the Cavaliers’ dominant sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the conference semifinals.

Having Love back is especially important given the opponent. Golden State is a terrific 3-point shooting team that shoots from deep at a high rate, so Cleveland having the services of their most versatile big man is quite important. When healthy, the Warriors also love to play small ball featuring no true big on the court, so Love should get opportunities both inside and out this entire series. Even when Golden State does go “big,” the team has used youngsters Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney, both athletic, shifty bigs but both liable to some growing pains and youthful mistakes. Furthermore Love is a terrific screener both on- and off-ball and a key to what the Cavaliers like to generate offensively when James has the ball in his hands. If Love can lift some of the scoring burden off of James’ shoulders and free up others for open looks, Cleveland’s chances to pull off the upset are much higher.

Love will not have a restriction on his limits, so it’s possible Golden State will see a lot of him Thursday night.

Game 1 is Thursday night at 9:00 p.m. ET.

The NBA Finals get underway Thursday night at Oracle Arena at 9:00 p.m. ET. Love will rejoin the starting lineup now that he is healthy. Warriors forward Andre Iguodala, meanwhile, remains out.

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