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Expect James to be busier with Love out

4/27/2015

As the Cleveland Cavaliers await results from an MRI to determine the extent of Kevin Love's shoulder injury, some Cavaliers players have been told that Love will miss at least two weeks, a source tells ESPN's Brian Windhorst.

We take a look at the statistical significance of Love’s potential absence on the Cavaliers and their playoff hopes.

James and Irving without Love

How will the Cavaliers look without Love? We’ve already seen it. The Cavaliers had five games this season in which LeBron James and Kyrie Irving played but Love did not. Two of the five games were against playoff teams; the Cavaliers split those and were 3-2 overall.

With James, Irving and Love on the court at the same time this season, the Cavaliers outscored opponents at a rate of more than 13 points per 48 minutes, which would rank first in the NBA over the course of the season.

In 370 minutes that James and Irving played without Love, the Cavaliers’ scoring margin fell by nine points per 48 minutes. Although that would be among the top five in the NBA, a net scoring margin of 4.2 points per 48 minutes wouldn’t rank head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in the NBA.

In the five games the Cavaliers played this season in which James and Irving played but Love did not, James averaged more points, field goal attempts, assists and rebounds and had a higher usage percentage than Irving.

Based on James’ per-40 minute splits this season, expect his scoring to soar and usage percentage to skyrocket. James had a usage percentage of 40 with Love off the court this season, a mark that over the course of the season would break the NBA all-time single-season record.

Love’s on-court impact

The Cavaliers swept their first-round series against the Boston Celtics, but Love’s injury could mean trouble for the Cavaliers from here. They averaged nearly 121 points per 100 possessions with Love on the court against the Celtics, compared with 97 points per 100 possessions with him off the court.

Love (47.1 percent) and Irving (55.6 percent) were the only Cavaliers players to shoot better than 30 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers against the Celtics.

Love created 11 assist opportunities in the series, with his teammates making 10-of-11 shots directly off his passes.

The Cavaliers were 20-7 after the All-Star break, which ranked third in the NBA in that span -- and first in the Eastern Conference. In terms of overall efficiency, they were fifth.

Their efficiency numbers with Love on the court would have ranked second. With Love off the court? Outside the top 10 and below that of the Bulls, Cleveland’s probable opponent in the next round.

Feb. 12 meeting a harbinger?

The Cavaliers and Bulls might be the two hardest teams in the Eastern Conference to gauge from the regular season because they had so many roster moves (Cavaliers) or experienced so many injuries (Bulls).

That makes the Bulls-Cavaliers game from Feb. 12 -- a game Chicago won by 15 points -- so interesting. About the only thing different then from what it will be for this series, assuming the Bulls advance, is the presence of Jimmy Butler, who did not play.

Guarding each other for the majority of the game, Derrick Rose got the better of Irving. Rose scored half of his 30 points when guarded by Irving, making seven of his 12 shots and committing zero turnovers.

When guarded by Rose, Irving made three of his 12 shots. His average shot distance of 12.2 feet was 37 percent farther from the basket than Rose’s average shot distance.

The Four Factors most often correlated with winning in the NBA – shooting, turnovers, offensive rebounds and free throw rate – were all won by the Bulls in the first matchup. Teams to win all four factors in one game were 86-0 in the regular season.

Effective field goal percentage: Accounting for 2s and 3s, the Bulls had an effective field goal percentage of 50.5 (Cavaliers: 48.2).

Turnovers: The Bulls had half as many turnovers (eight) as the Cavaliers (16), which led to twice as many points off turnovers (24-12).

Offensive rebounding: Chicago had 13 offensive rebounds; Cleveland had 10. The Bulls rebounded 28 percent of their own misses.

Free throws: The Bulls got to the line 26 times compared to 22 for the Cavaliers, averaging one free throw for every 3.5 field goal attempts (Cavaliers: 1 for every 3.8).