Kevin Love scored just two points in Game 5 of the NBA Finals Monday night and Tuesday morning was being laughed at for his first-quarter argument with LeBron James. Despite this sideshow, Cleveland still managed to win on the road at Golden State to force Game 6 and further raise the argument that Love is no longer needed or welcomed in the Cavaliers “Big 3.”
The former Timberwolves star turned LeBron’s wing man made just one field goal, was 0-for-3 from three-point range, had three rebounds, one block and one assist in 33 minutes. It was his worst performance of the postseason on a night he had an opportunity to earn back the trust of his teammates and the Cavs fan base.
Instead, he’s become the center of a rumor. Reports swirled Tuesday morning that James refused to give Love a high-five after the Warriors scored midway through the first quarter. A cropped video of the interaction appears to show Love smiling with his arm raised and then James ripping into him. The complete highlight shows Love simply engaging in a discussion with James, but either way James clearly wasn’t happy with his teammate.
Love has few supporters in his corner after this latest NBA Finals letdown. He was inserted back into the starting lineup on Monday night after coming off the bench in Game 4, but was a non-factor as James and Kyrie Irving carried the Cavs with 41 points each.
At another point in the game after several players dove to the floor for a loose ball and Love stood nearby watching, teammate Richard Jefferson appeared to rip into Love for not engaging in the play.
Love is averaging just seven points and under five rebounds in the NBA finals. He averaged a double-double in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The hosts of ESPN’s "His & Hers," Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, believe Love needs to be traded, especially if the Cavs lose in the finals for a second straight year.
“Kevin Love is always the easy and convenient target because of his defensive shortcomings,” Smith said, “I hope if they lose this series, I hope for my man Kevin’s sake, I hope he’s traded. For his sake and the team’s sake, he needs to be gone. Maybe Portland will take him.
“Get him out of there because if he’s going to be useless when it matters most, whether you bench him or whether he’s ineffective, then he needs to go. Because an offseason with him and bringing him back just doing the same things expecting a different result, I don’t see it. He needs to go.
“I’m tired of hearing [about his shortcomings]. And I’m sure he’s tired of hearing it.”
Hill weighed in by highlighting Wolves young star Andrew Wiggins and the standout player he’s becoming. The Cavs traded Wiggins, the former No. 1 overall pick, to the Wolves for Love in 2014. Wiggins responded by earning Rookie of the Year honors.
“I don’t believe Kevin Love is a bad player,” Hill started. “This is in many ways is an awkward and bad spot for him to be in and it doesn’t help at all that the person he was traded for [Wiggins] has been balling and looks like he is ready and fully capable to take Minnesota to another level.”
Love could redeem himself if Cleveland rallies to win the NBA crown and he plays a major role in the next two games. However, the less the Cavs have relied on Love this series, they’ve been successful.