Cleveland Cavaliers big man Kevin Love, who is still suffering from a hand injury, has undoubtedly struggled during the 2018 postseason.
It’s unclear if the injury is entirely to blame for Love’s poor shooting, but it’s worth noting that he was performing much better before tearing the ligament in his thumb.
Love averaged 2.1 field goals per game in the restricted area during the regular season, shooting 62.1 percent. This was his best mark since being traded to the Cavaliers, where he has been used more as a spot-up shooter than as a threat near the basket.
During his final season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Love scored 3.4 field goals per game in the restricted area with a career-best 65.2 percent accuracy. It seemed like Love was returning to form until the injury set him back.
It should be a huge concern for Cleveland that he is shooting just 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) from this zone during the postseason. He was 0-for-3 there against the Toronto Raptors during Game 1 of the second round. Love is averaging less than one made field goal per game in the restricted area since the start of the 2018 playoffs.
The 6-foot-10 forward also struggled from this area during the NBA Finals last season. In fact, during that series, he had the lowest shooting percentage among all players with more than 10 attempts in the restricted area.
Kevin O’Connor contextualized the way the Cavaliers have utilized Love (via The Ringer):
“Over 45 percent of his shots are 3s, which exceeds marksmen like Klay Thompson (44.1 percent) and Otto Porter (35.4 percent). When Love is hovering around the line, he’s away from the paint, where he once beat up defenses with his bruising low-post scoring and ferocious rebounding.”
Cleveland rarely gives Love any touches in the paint; he is averaging just 3.6 paint touches per game this postseason. But even when Love does have those chances, he has not made the most of his opportunities. He is shooting just 6-for-19 (31.6 percent) on layups since the postseason began.
Shots charts like the one he had last night against Toronto simply won’t do as the Cavaliers continue their quest for another championship.