The NBA Playoffs are about matchups. Some extraordinary teams will sometimes struggle in the playoffs against an opponent with a much lower winning percentage in the regular season (think, the first four games of the Thunder-Warriors series this year, or Thunder-Spurs series the round before). Sometimes this is a clash of styles and the underdog is better suited for the playoffs than their higher-seeded opponent (think, the Grit n’ Grind Grizzlies when they’re healthy). Mostly, though, some teams and players just struggle against certain opponents, even if they’re a better team against everyone else.
The problem casual fans struggle with is understanding the pitfalls that arise from making an all-or-nothing generalization based on these specific matchup problems in May or June. Just because a player might struggle against a specific opponent in the postseason, that player is still valuable, especially over the long haul of a regular season and other playoff games. A team that struggles, too, is still good, even if they’re upset or taken advantage of in a particular playoff series. Nowhere is this idea more apparent than the status of Kevin Love as we come up on Game 4 Friday night.
A lot of the detritus out there about Love stems from what’s happened after he sat out Game 3. An inadvertent Harrison Barnes elbow gave him a concussion in Game 2, and so he was ruled out before the Cavs summarily blew out the Warriors in Game 3. And the logical fallacies poured in on Twitter well before the buzzer sounded Wednesday night.
Here’s how it goes. The Warriors blew out the Cavs in the first two games; Kevin Love did not play in Game 3; the Cavs blew out the Warriors in Game 3. Conclusion? The Cavs are better when Kevin Love isn’t in the lineup.
That’s just wrong.