The Cleveland Cavaliers went 7-6 during Kevin Love's absence. Not only was he getting back on the court two weeks before his original timetable for recovery, but a game or two earlier than his already accelerated return date that had been announced when Cavs general manager David Griffin said this week that Love wouldn't be back until the team's upcoming four-game trip. "I knew my minute restriction was right around 20 and I was closing in on it and Hayward came to double, I threw the ball away and then he took me out". "Because you don't look at the little number [that tells you how far you've gone], and you're like 'I'm starting to get this lactic acid in my legs, ' and you're looking at that number and it's like only at 150". The Jazz center scored 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting, grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked two shots. He hadn't played in a game since February 11, and returned to the court this week instead of next because he responded so well to workouts Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
"You go to a place where you're like, 'Do I love basketball?'" Frye said. "We've been (bad) since the All-Star break". As you may have seen or read, there was a lot going on out there in this one. "I think once I saw how I was progressing and didn't have any hiccups, tonight just felt right". This was especially needed by Sanders, who last played full-time in the 2014-15 season with the Milwaukee Bucks. "But it's just good to have him back on the floor". Other than that, I feel good.
Love had eight points in the first quarter. On Saturday night, the Cavs will face the Clippers in a nationally televised game beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET, followed by a Sunday night clash versus the Lakers that will get underway just after 9:30 p.m. ET. Love, J.R. Smith and Shumpert have missed extended time, putting extra pressure on the four-time MVP to shoulder the load. And Love only played two games with Derrick Williams, who was out Thursday with a bruised quad.
Not a moment too soon for the defending National Basketball Association champions, who went 7-6 with Love out of the lineup, ceding ground to the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards for the Eastern Conference's top seed.
The Jazz, who fell to 43-26, didn't blame this setback on their inability to stop James, though.
This could end up being for the best for both parties, as Sanders clearly needs to reacquaint himself with the game mentally and physically - and the Cavaliers would rather not have him figuring things out during games they actually need to win.