Kevin Love, a teammate of Cavaliers small forward LeBron James, could play tonight at 9 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena.
Golden State forward Andre Iguodala, who almost became James’ teammate 14 years ago, will be out with a sore left knee.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Wednesday that power forward-center Love, who missed Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, was still in the league’s concussion protocol program, but could play in Game 1.
Lue added that if Love is cleared to play, he will be in the starting lineup, ending speculation the All-Star might come off the bench because he has a history of struggling defensively against Golden State.
“I hope so,” Lue said when asked if Love would play. “I’m still not sure. He’s going to go do some things (Wednesday) and see how he feels. But he is in the protocol still, so we’ll see how he feels.”
Meanwhile, James revealed the Cavs wanted to take Iguodala out of Arizona with the No. 10 pick in the 2004 draft, but that strategy was foiled when the Philadelphia 76ers chose him at No. 9. Cleveland then took
Oregon’s Luke Jackson, who never came close to panning out.
“I had loved him at Arizona and was hoping that he slid to us with that pick,” said James, who entered the league in 2003.
Iguodala, who also missed the last four games of the Western Conference finals, could play at some point in The Finals, as his ailing knee is starting to feel better, according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
Iguodala was starting alongside Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the Warriors’ vaunted “Death Lineup” prior to getting injured, and he will be the primary defender on James if he’s healthy and able to play at some point.
“He was MVP of the series in 2015, largely because he took that role on of guarding LeBron,” Kerr said of the Warriors’ six-game win over a Cavs team that didn’t have Love and lost Kyrie Irving in Game 1. “But also because of what he did offensively. He’s doing a little bit better today. (There are) some encouraging signs, but we have ruled him out for Game 1.
“We’ve got lots of guys who can take on that job (of defending James). It’s a group effort, anyway, guarding LeBron. So K.D., Draymond, Klay, Shaun Livingston, they’ll all see time on him.”
James was complimentary when asked about Iguodala’s defensive ability, and refrained from pointing out he’s put up monster numbers against the Warriors in each of the last three Finals.
“He has very, very quick hands,” he said. “What doesn’t get talked about a lot is his ability to react to the ball, either in the flight or while you’re dribbling or while you pick the ball up.
“At the end of the day, his athleticism allows him to play some of the premier perimeter players in our league. He’s a guy that’s 6-8, long wingspan, athletic. He’s been like that since he was at Arizona. He’s just added to his game every single season he’s been in the NBA.”
The Cavs have had more than their share of problems in the third period this season, while Golden State was the most efficient team in the league in that quarter in the regular season and has been even better in the postseason.
In the conference finals vs. the Rockets, the Warriors became the first team in league history to win back-to-back elimination games after trailing by double figures at halftime of both.
“Considering this year we’ve been pretty bad in the third quarters, we’ve got to really be aware of what they do in that third quarter,” Lue said. “The biggest thing is they really amped their defense up.
“We’ve got to just do a good job of taking care of the basketball and owning our space in that third quarter and I think we’ll be fine.”
After jokingly comparing the volatile Green to Mt. Fuji, Kerr proceeded to heap praise on the guy who often plays point guard on offense and center on defense for the Warriors.
“He sees the game as it happens, before it happens, even,” Kerr said. “He’s kind of a move or two ahead of everybody on the defensive end. It’s amazing to have him out there.
“(He’s) probably the best defensive player I’ve ever seen,” he added. “Scottie Pippen would be right there with him, but they’re different in that Draymond has to guard fives. The league is different. I don’t know if Draymond could have guarded Shaq (O’Neal) or Hakeem (Olajuwon) and those guys, but those guys don’t exist anymore. So the way the game is played now, the ability to guard one through five, I don’t think there’s anybody who can compare to Draymond.”
First with four
The Cavs and Warriors are meeting in The Finals for the fourth straight year, the first time in the four major sports that the same teams have squared off for a title four years in a row.
In the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and Detroit Red Wings met from 1954-56. In football, the Detroit Lions and Browns met from 1952-54. In baseball, the New York Giants and New York Yankees squared off from 1921-23.
- James needs one more 30-point game to tie Michael Jordan (109) for the most in postseason history.
- Kyle Korver (236) needs one 3-pointer to pass Jason Kidd for sole possession of 14th place in playoff history, while J.R. Smith needs seven 3-pointers to pass Derek Fisher (285) for eighth.
- Love needs two assists to pass Larry Nance Sr. (110) for eighth in team playoff history.
- Smith needs 12 points to pass Brad Daugherty (782) for sixth in team postseason history.
Quote of the day
“I do remember the first time I guarded him back when I was in Cleveland. He faked right, faked back left and went right, and I stayed right in front of him, but only because I went for the first fake. We came to the bench and (coach) Lenny Wilkens said, ‘Guys, did you see what Steve just did? He stayed in front. That’s what you have to do.’ I said, ‘That’s right, guys, come on.’ I was literally still going for the first fake and he came right back to me. So that was my highlight.” — Kerr, on defending Michael Jordan in the playoffs.
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