INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers' so-called "Big Three" -- LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love -- has devolved into more of a dynamic duo in the playoffs while Love has lagged behind, and coach Tyronn Lue blames himself for Love's drop in production.
"Just because [Love's] not scoring the basketball or whatever, defensively and rebounding the basketball he's been great," Lue said Thursday. "For me, some of it's my fault because we haven't really featured him a lot because of the matchups we had on other teams.
"He's been great. His whole mindset is winning, and that's what it's all about in the playoffs. In this next series, we have some matchups he can definitely take advantage of, and it's on me to make sure we do that."
Love's regular-season averages of 19.1 points and 11.1 rebounds have plummeted to 13.8 points and 9.1 boards in the playoffs. Cleveland has played eight games, sweeping Indiana and Toronto.
Meanwhile, James' scoring average has exploded from 26.4 to 34.4 points per game. Irving's has stayed in range, from 25.2 down to 23.8, despite the fact that his shot attempts have increased from 19.7 to 21.6 per game.
The contrast between the three players was as stark as ever in Cleveland's Game 4 closeout win in Toronto in the second round. James and Irving scored or assisted on 92 of the Cavs' 109 points and Love finished with just five points on 2-for-7 shooting with six rebounds.
During the regular season, Love averaged 23.3 points on 50 percent shooting (52.9 percent from 3) and 11.7 rebounds in three games against Washington, and 23.7 points on 38.5 percent shooting (37.9 percent from 3) and 13 rebounds in three games against Boston.
Lue has approached Love about his intention to involve the stretch-4 more in the next round -- on top of his customary touches in the first quarter of every game -- and Love told him there was no need for special treatment.
"I told him, 'We're 8-0. I don't mind it,'" Love said Thursday. "If I get five or six shots, if I get 15 shots, it don't matter to me, as long as we win. I've been in this position before; we're having success, so I'm happy. Feel good."
However, after Cleveland swept the Raptors, Love said the Cavs "have another level that we can get to." In Lue's estimation, that level could be correlated with how he implements Love, who had a double-double in all eight of the Cavs' wins to start the 2016 playoffs.
"Last year, especially, I thought Kevin and Kyrie really did a good job carrying us those first couple rounds," Lue said. "Against Detroit they were small with [Marcus] Morris, and Kevin really took advantage of that. I think Atlanta was the second round, Kevin was really great in that series.
"The playoffs is a game of matchups. That's why Toronto went out and got [Serge] Ibaka, to try to slow Kevin down because they had matchup problems last year with [Luis] Scola and [Patrick] Patterson and those guys; he really took advantage of those guys. That's why they went out and got Ibaka and those guys, to try and slow Kevin down.
"Maybe we didn't feature Kevin enough against Toronto, maybe we showed 'em too much respect, and that's on me. But next round I've got to do a better job of really getting Kevin involved and really establishing Kevin."
While Love's 9.9 shots per game in the playoffs are less than half of what James and Irving each hoist up, Love recognizes that his presence creates opportunities for both to exploit their one-on-one abilities because opposing defenses have to keep attached to him.
"Whether it was Patterson, Ibaka, those types of guys in the corner, they weren't leaving me much," Love said. "So that allowed us to play downhill, allowed those guys to do their thing. For me, I was trying to be as best I could defensively. We looked at a lot of film. I was able to trap [Kyle] Lowry when he played, [DeMar] DeRozan quite a bit.
"Our game plan has been great. I've just been trying to be my best in that role. Sometimes it's going to be like that."
Lue applauded Love for his attitude.
"It's just growth," Lue said. "Growth for Kevin, growth for this team and it's all about winning. When you come here, it's all about one thing, and that's just trying to win a championship. However you got to do it, you got to do it. And it's about sacrifice.
"What we had going offensively was working, and we had to stay with it to get to 8-0, where we're at right now. And he understands that and next series will be totally different."