The Cavaliers could really use the best Kevin Love for Game 7 against the Pacers on Sunday. Love and LeBron James were clear about that after Cleveland's 121-87 blowout loss Friday.
"Obviously, we can't make the shots for him. He has to step up and knock those down," James told reporters after the loss. "Those things you can't control. The shot-making, you're going to have games where you can't make shots and you can make shots, but we have to continue to let him know how important he is to our success, and if want to have any success, either in a Game 7 or moving on to the next round, Kev has to be a big part of that."
Love had seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with just seven rebounds Friday.
He is averaging 11.0 points per game in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals after scoring 17.6 during the season. Cleveland's offense needs him to step up. When the All-Star forward scores at least 20 points Cleveland is 18-8 this season. The Cavs are 19-14 in all other games.
Love, 29, has yet to score 20 points in the Pacers series. He said after Friday's game the entire team's success doesn't ride on him, but the Cavs are better when he is finding a way to affect the game.
"It's not me, but it's not about me, either. I've done a lot of other good things," Love said Friday. "I know you guys will talk about the offense, but I just got to find a way to impact the game in different ways."
Love has averaged 9.8 rebounds per game during the postseason with at least 10 rebounds in Games 1, 4 and 5. It is not coincidental that Cleveland is 2-1 in those games. He had at least 10 rebounds in 31 games in the regular season, and the team was 22-9 in those games. The Cavs were 15-13 in all others.
It will take more than a great performance from Love for the Cavaliers to win Game 7, but a stellar outing would go a long way in earning a second-round berth for Cleveland.
Either way, this is the first time James has gone to a Game 7 in the first round of the playoffs and the four-time MVP knows exactly what needs to be done.
"Win or go home," he said. "It's just that simple."