Love missed the last 13 games and was injured just four games after his 39 points eruption. And with only 15 games left before the playoffs begin, it's starting to become disconcerting because Cleveland will also be looking to mix in rest for its stars in that time frame to save their legs for another postseason trek.
Say what you want about the Cleveland Cavaliers, but you can't say they don't have backup plans. During the final four minutes of the opening quarter, the Cavaliers put together a 13-2 run to take a 29-20 lead, with the Jazz missing five of their last six shot attempts.
The Jazz managed to tie the game early in the third before LeBron James took over and put the Cavs back up by eight.
It started with good news for once, as Kevin Love made a surprise return to the lineup from the arthroscopic surgery to his left knee that caused him to miss the past four weeks. Iman Shumpert was also out after hurting his shoulder earlier in the game.
Love will start at home against the Jazz, his first game since injuring his knee February 11. Sure, the Jazz were without a pair of starters in Derrick Favors and Rodney Hood, but with the Cavaliers' injury issues of their own, neither team was going to use that as an excuse. Only Tristan Thompson broke up the complete fourth quarter, playing 1:10 for Channing Frye. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Shumpert, who has been starting at shooting guard for almost three months, is listed as day-to-day. While not on a set minutes restriction, it seemed that Love was only allowed about 20 minutes. "Just having him around means a lot to guys like Kevin and Kyrie and the young guys on our team".
More importantly, though, Love's return brings the Cavaliers as close to full strength as they've been in quite some time. While he probably won't actually win the MVP award this season, this game showcased precisely why no matter what the voters say, LeBron James is the most valuable player in the National Basketball Association. By moving players back into their traditional role, Cleveland hopes to return to where it was past year, when it finished the season 10th best in defensive rating. The Utah Jazz, 83.
Speaking of Thursday's game, the Cavaliers welcomed back Love, who was out for a month due to a knee injury.
"Just try to be an MVP for this team every night that I go out on the floor", James said via ESPN's Dave McMenamin. The Cavaliers then play the Los Angeles Lakers, the Denver Nuggets, and the Charlotte Hornets. For now, though, the Cavaliers should just be happy that they were able to add some depth in recent weeks to at least alleviate some of these injuries as much as possible.