CLEVELAND (AP) — Kevin Love’s troubled season has twisted again.
The Cavaliers All-Star forward, who has battled injuries and criticism while revealing he suffered panic attacks in the past, may have to sit out Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals after injuring his head Friday night during the first quarter of Cleveland’s 109-99 win over the Boston Celtics.
Love was kept out of the second half of Game 6 following his violent collision with Celtics rookie Jayson Tatum.
Cleveland’s medical staff checked Love for a concussion, and the team announced at halftime the 29-year-old would not return to the game as a precaution.
Love has not been placed in concussion protocol, but that could change if he has an onset of symptoms — headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light — in the hours ahead. He will be re-examined Saturday before the team flies to Boston.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue did not know if he would have his second-best player for the season’s biggest game as the Cavs try to win their fourth straight conference title.
Following Game 6, Love told a reporter it was “a toss-up” whether he would be able to face the Celtics.
Love is Cleveland’s most reliable scoring option after LeBron James, who scored 46 points in another tour-de-force performance in Game 6 — possibly his last game with the Cavs.
James, too, is hurting.
Teammate Larry Nance Jr. fell into James’ right leg in the fourth quarter, and the three-time champion said there was a moment when he feared his injury was serious.
“I felt some pain throughout my entire right side of my ankle into my leg,” said James, who played 46 of 48 minutes. “I was just hoping for the best, obviously, because I’ve seen so many different injuries, and watching basketball with that type of injury, someone fall into one’s leg standing straight up. Luckily, I was able to finish the game.”
James doesn’t have much time to recover, and sleep will be imperative.
“It’ll be around-the-clock treatment, and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
James walked slowly, almost shuffling his feet as he left Quicken Loans Arena early Saturday morning.
Love and Tatum inadvertently collided midway through the quarter and both immediately dropped to the floor. Love, who has a history with concussions, raised his left arm as if to signal he needed help. He stayed down for several minutes and sat rubbing his head before he was pulled to his feet.
Love walked unsteadily to the bench with guard George Hill holding one of his arms. He spent a few moments on the bench before heading to the locker room for further evaluation. Love didn’t score and had five rebounds before getting hurt.
Tatum was checked on the bench and stayed in the game.
“I didn’t see him coming, it was bad,” Tatum said. “I have a knot on the back of my head, I should be all right. I wish the best for Kevin Love because he’s a great player, and it’s been a long season.”
The Cavs appeared to be in big trouble when he went out in Game 6, but Cleveland got 20 points from Hill, 14 from Jeff Green and 10 from Larry Nance Jr. to offset losing Love.
“Very encouraging,” Lue said of the contributions. “I think when you lose an All-Star like Kevin and our second go-to guy, pivotal part of what we try to do, and when he goes down and then you help your brother up, that’s what they did. Kevin left the game. He didn’t come back, and guys got together and they played. They played for Kevin. They played for each other and were able to get the win.”
For Love, who missed most of the 2015 playoffs with a separated shoulder, the head injury is the latest blow in what has been a challenging few months.
In March, he disclosed that he had suffered a panic attack during a game in November, and he experienced a similar episode in January. Following the second incident, several players challenged Love in a team meeting that came shortly after he had left that game and missed a subsequent practice.
Love, who has suffered at least two prior concussions, was also sidelined seven weeks with a broken left hand.
He’s had a fairly steady 2018 postseason, averaging 14.8 points and 10.4 rebounds but his critics have often insisted he should be doing more.
Now he may not be able to do anything.