INDIANAPOLIS — Kevin Love found himself acting as team spokesman by default, surrounded by the media while he iced his knees as the other Cavaliers left Bankers Life Fieldhouse after Saturday’s practice.
But he was a good gauge of the mood since the five-time All-Star got only two shots in the second half as the Cavs blew a 17-point lead and lost by two to the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.
The Pacers lead the series 2-1 going into tonight’s Game 4 and the situation looks dire. It’s possible a LeBron James-led team could be eliminated in the first round for the first time in James’ 13 postseason appearances.
But Love said the Cavs haven’t lost the will to win. He said he believes the spirit to keep going is still there.
“Yeah, absolutely. I think the want is definitely there,” Love said. “If (tonight) goes our way, we even up the series, then we’re right back at it. We have to win this one (tonight).”
Love was the only one who voiced the urgency Friday night or Saturday, but all understand the situation.
“We got a good taste of what the crowd is going to be like, the atmosphere. We just got to respond to their runs,” Rodney Hood said Friday. “I think we will be better next game and it will be a different outcome.”
While he may be drawing from the Cavs’ rally from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals against the Warriors to win the 2016 NBA championship, J.R. Smith said he believes the Cavs have it in them to respond.
“We always, for whatever reason, rise up to adversity,” Smith said Friday. “We’ve just got to do it. If we want to be a playoff team and continue to play in these playoffs, we’ve got to come back strong.”
James wouldn’t go down the must-win path Friday.
“It’s the postseason, (so) I think every game is a must-win,” James said. “If you come in with the mindset that every game is a must-win, you try to play with that type of urgency.”
Although James didn’t speak to the media Saturday, he seemed upbeat. Seated in the end zone next to coach Tyronn Lue near the end of the practice session, the two chatted.
“Everyone feels good,” Lue said.
Lue said he’s ignoring the critics on social media, with many disgruntled fans directing their ire at him.
“I don’t care about that,” he said. “It don’t bother me. It won’t change my life.”
One of the problems that must be corrected is Love’s involvement. In the crucial third quarter, he didn’t take a shot and had three of the Cavs’ seven turnovers. In the second half he went 1-for-2, his 3-pointer with 7.7 seconds left cut the Cavs’ deficit to one.
“We tried to post him, they were physical pushing him off his spot. We turned it over a couple times trying to get it to him on the block,” Lue said of Love’s second half.
Love was the Cavs’ second-leading scorer with 19, surpassed only by James with 28.
“I can go try and get it off the glass,” Love said. “I just have to, a lot like Game 1, just find different ways to try and get the ball. If they’re switching, go into the post and those guys have got to throw it in there. In some cases I need to go get it and just need to be more, I guess, vocal in calling for it.”
When he looked at the film, Lue said he was surprised at how many open shots the Cavs had in the third quarter that they didn’t make. He pointed out how the Pacers upped their physicality and how the Cavs didn’t “own our space offensively.”
Asked to translate, Lue said, “Catch the ball in our spots, don’t push us out to the 3-point line. We want to catch the ball at the elbow. We’re getting pressure full court, don’t let the pressure hurt us.”
Lue said staffers pointed out to him Saturday morning that the Cavs rank first among 16 playoff teams in defensive efficiency ahead of the Boston Celtics, the No. 1 team in the league in the category during the regular season.
“That was our Achilles’ heel coming into the playoffs, and I thought we did a good job really doing what we’re supposed to do defensively,” Lue said as the Cavs ranked 29th in the regular season. “But offensively, when we get stops, we get steals, we gotta be able to push the basketball and we’ve gotta be able to convert in transition.”
Although Lue said the Cavs must build off their performance in the first half Friday, he is not anxious about tonight’s game.
“I’m encouraged,” Lue said. “They won a game we should’ve won. That’s what’s disappointing, but we’re not discouraged. Still got a Game 4 tomorrow, feel very confident that we can come out and win this game and so do our guys.”
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