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Kevin Love’s top priority in the 2017 NBA Finals

There has been a lot said of the upcoming trilogy in the NBA Finals between the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Analysts have broken down individual matchups, bench depth, and even the fact that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr could miss the Finals entirely due to complications from a prior back surgery.

According to most accounts, the Warriors are heavy favorites to win the series against the Cavaliers. To defend the Larry O’Brien trophy, the Cavs will need to focus on the defensive end of the floor and push the ball ahead in transition — an aspect of the game that Kevin Love has become increasingly familiar with.

Cleveland went 4-and-1 in the Finals last year when they posted 15 fast-break points or more and averaged 20 points in transition in their Finals wins, up from the 12 points they averaged in Finals losses. So, for the champs to be effective against a high-powered offense like Golden State’s, Love’s famous outlet passes could become a focal point.

According to SportVu data analyst Brittni Donaldson, in the regular season, Love successfully threw 24 outlet passes that traveled at least 50 feet — more than any individual team had all season (Warriors completed 22). And on an interesting side note, there were only seven teams that allowed more 50-foot outlet passes than the Warriors this past season.

While Love’s outlet passes won’t win the series alone, they could prove to be a valuable tool against the Warriors. They’re also an indicator how effective Love is on the defensive rebounding glass, which will limit the Warriors second chance opportunities and amplify the pressure on their transition defense. In a recent sit-down interview with Scott Cacciola of The New York Times, the 6’10” rebounding machine said: “If I see LeBron with any sort of advantage, I’m going to throw it.”

Game 1 is scheduled for a 9:00 p.m. tip inside Oracle Arena, with ABC having live broadcast coverage. We’ll just have to wait and see how Love’s quarterbacking skills impact the series. As we wait for the start of tonight’s game, take a look at these highlights of Love’s touchdown passes.

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