SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The shots, they're there for Kevin Love. Touches are not the issue.
The problem lately for the Cleveland Cavaliers' third wheel is hoist after hoist is too often followed by clank after clank.
In Love's last 10 games, leading up to the final minutes of Wednesday's 120-111 win against the Sacramento Kings, Love shot 38 3-pointers and made just seven for a paltry shooting percentage of 18.4 from the perimeter.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue tried to fall on the grenade when asked about Love's slump earlier in the day. "That's on me," Lue said. "I've got to get Kevin in better positions, better spots to be more of a factor and that's on me. He's not really struggling. The way we've been trying to implement different things offensively, he's kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. That's on me to make sure he plays better."
From a public relations perspective, it was certainly better than his predecessor David Blatt. It was during the Cavs' annual trip to Sacramento last January when Blatt infamously called Love "not a max player." While Blatt later tried to clarify the comment, the perception, coupled with his propensity to sit Love in the fourth quarter made it clear he wasn't getting the most out of the former All-Star forward that he could.
Of course, results matter far more than PR and the truth is Love's play under Lue has been virtually identical as it was under Blatt, if not worse considering the recent downturn.
The message behind Lue's words though -- even if the truth is Love's struggling because he's just plain missing shots, not because how Lue is coaching him -- is that Love is going to remain a priority in the Cavs' final 19 games before the playoffs begin.
They're going to keep going to him because come the postseason, they'll only go as far as the entire team operating on all cylinders will take them.
And so, on the Cavs' most important possession of the night, up three with less than two minutes remaining in front of a charged road crowd, Cleveland went to Love not once, but twice to get the job done. First with 1:50 to go, Love missed a 3 -- the one that dropped him to 7-for-38 -- and LeBron James grabbed the offensive rebound. The ball went back to Love in the corner and he shot it again, hitting a 3 with 1:32 to go as he was fouled by Darren Collison.
Not only did Love complete the 4-point play to give Cleveland a seven-point cushion, but the make put him in the history books as the only player to hit 700 3-pointers in his career while maintaining an average of 10 rebounds or more.
It was a reminder that for all of Love's faults -- the poor lateral quickness, the inconsistency on offense, the passive play -- he's still a special player and has a lot to give.
"It's a very unique stat," James said after finding Love in the training room to share the accomplishment with Love after seeing it on his phone. "It just shows the uniqueness of him as a player, to be able to rebound at the rate he rebounds at, but also being able to spread the floor on the offensive end, so, congratulations to him."
After Love hit the 3, J.R. Smith sprinted toward him and leaped into the air, looking for a celebratory chest bump. Only Smith's chest met Love's forehead as Love didn't meet him off the floor.
"I was going for the jump, but he didn't jump," Smith said. "Made it kind of awkward. Me and Kev are going to work on it."
And the Cavs are going to continue to try to work Love in, taking his missteps in stride.
"That was the game plan coach wanted," James said. "We just tried to get him in a rhythm. It worked well for us at times, at times it slowed us up, but we were still able to keep him in a good rhythm."
Admitting Love's involvement came at the expense of the Cavs' preferred pace was telling from James. Then again, he was in an honest mood. Later he said, "We want to win, we want to continue to show emotion to each other, good and bad. It's going to build our character."
In other words, now is not the time to push individual agendas. Everyone will be utilized so long as they help the team, but at some point, if you don't produce, you're going to hear about it.
"Truthfully I've been getting a lot of great shots, a lot of wide open shots, shots where I'm ducking in and getting my little hook shot and it's hitting the back rim," Love said. "Those are ones that usually fall for me, just lately they haven't. Hopefully after that big shot tonight something will happen."
The Cavs have seen what a difference a confident Love can be. But with more than 3/4ths of the regular season in the books and the playoffs looming, they are going to have to move forward whether Love is ready or not. If he can get it together, they'll gladly rely on him. If not? They will have to lean on their other parts.
"More than anything, I think we needed it as a team," Smith said. "Don't get me wrong, definitely want to help his psyche by making shots or whatever the case may be. At the end of the day, it's a big team win as opposed to just Kevin making a shot."