Kevin Love Makes a Stunning Admission About the History-Making 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers Being Underachievers
The Cavs made history in overcoming a 3-1 deficit against MVP Stephen Curry and the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. The comeback ended Cleveland’s long-standing professional sports championship drought, and the Cavs even commemorated the moment with their City Edition jerseys.
Love enjoyed every bit of the ride. But he also acknowledged that the 2016 Cavs coasted for practically the whole season and might actually be the most underwhelming team in NBA history.
Reliving the 2016 NBA Finals
The 2015-16 Warriors seemed destined to build on their record-breaking 73-9 regular-season mark by winning a championship. Early in the 2016 NBA Finals against Kevin Love and the Cavaliers, it looked as though that’s exactly what would happen.
Golden State dominated the first two games of the series, including a 33-point blowout in Game 2. Cleveland rebounded with a 30-point win of its own in Game 3, but the Dubs recovered in Game 4 behind 38 points from Curry. The Warriors took a 3-1 series lead. Done and dusted, right? Not exactly.
Love had practically zero impact in Game 5. However, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each poured in 41 points to help the Cavs stave off elimination on the road. LeBron gained even more energy in front of the home crowd in Game 6, scoring 41 more points to go with 11 assists, eight rebounds, four steals, and three blocks. Suddenly, Cleveland found itself heading back to the Bay Area for Game 7.
The Cavaliers and Warriors gave fans an epic conclusion to a historic series, battling back-and-forth before a legendary block from King James and a game-winning dagger by Irving sealed the championship. Love played a pivotal role in the final moments, harassing Curry and preventing him from getting a clean look at a game-tying 3-pointer. He also finished a game-high +19 in terms of plus-minus.
Cleveland became the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals. It’s one of the more remarkable performances ever. According to Love, though, the Cavs had things on cruise control almost all season.
Kevin Love called the 2016 Cavaliers the “most talented” and “underachieving” regular-season team in NBA history
If the 2015-16 Warriors maximized their talent en route to 73 regular-season wins, Kevin Love claims the Cavs did anything but that.
During Bleacher Report‘s Full-Bodied series with Love’s former Cavs teammate, Channing Frye, the five-time All-Star opined that Cleveland never really got into the season until the playoffs.
“We were the most talented, underachieving regular-season team of all time. Without question. We didn’t care until the playoffs.”–Kevin Love on the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers
Love said the 2015-16 Cavs had “so many storylines” and “would thrive under chaos.” Obviously, the latter rings true, considering they had to be pushed to the brink of elimination before digging deep and launching the historic comeback against Golden State.
It’s sometimes easy to forget former that the Cavs fired head coach David Blatt in the middle of the season before Tyronn Lue took over despite Blatt going 30-11 through 41 games. Additionally, Irving missed the first 24 games with a knee injury.
Still, with LeBron, Kyrie, and Love all on the same roster, the Cavs had an aura of a superteam. Cleveland might have ho-hummed its way to 57 wins during the regular season, but it went 12-2 to start the playoffs and showed championship mettle with backs against the wall versus the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Are the “Big Three” Cavs also the unluckiest teams in recent memory?
Kevin Love calls the 2015-16 Cavaliers one of the most underachieving teams ever, at least in terms of regular-season results. But fans should also ask whether the Cavs teams in that era are among the unluckiest in recent memory.
Cleveland took a 2-1 lead over the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals, but injuries to Love and Irving all but doomed the Cavs’ chances of winning that series. Although LeBron and Co. got their title the following season, Kevin Durant’s decision to sign with the Dubs in the summer of 2016 changed the complexion of NBA history.
The Cavs made it back to the Finals in 2017, but ultimately fell to Durant and the Warriors in five games. Irving all but demanded a trade that summer. While Cleveland reached the Finals again in 2018, the championship window had basically closed.
Now, Love finds himself as a veteran player trying to set a good example for younger Cavs players. He can only harken back to past glories and wonder, “What if?”
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.