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With 2 Starters Out, Cavs Bench More Crucial Than Ever

The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Boston Celtics to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs. But while they came up with one Game 4 win, they also had two very painful losses.

Kevin Love left early in the first quarter after dislocating his shoulder fighting for a loose rebound with Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk. He ran off the court and into the locker room where it was popped back into place, iced, and given electric stimulation. Here’s the play at hand:

The Cavs officially diagnosed Love with just a dislocated shoulder until they could return to Cleveland to do a more extensive evaluation on it. Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported on Love’s exact diagnosis on his shoulder:

Getty Images

Getty Images

After Game 4, LeBron spoke out about the play and Love’s importance to the team.

“I’ve seen the replay and it didn’t look like a basketball play. I’ve seen a lot of tie-ups in my day and that tie-up was a little different. We want to be physical, but you never want the game to get out of hand where you have injuries.

“It’s going to get tougher and tougher,” James said. “If we’re fortunate enough to continue playing basketball at this time of year, it will get tougher and tougher. So as we wait for our second round opponent, mentally we’ll decompress for probably a day, or two, and then you lock back in.”

J.R. Smith was the second player to leave Game 4 after getting into a shoving match with Celtics forward Jae Crowder for a rebound that turned ugly. Crowder was shoving Smith as J.R. was attempting to box him out. After two pushes, Smith swung his arm backwards and connected with Crowder’s face. Smith was given a flagrant foul type two and ejected from the game. The NBA announced that Smith would be suspended two games for the incident.

With these two players out, the Cavs will need more from their bench now more than ever; specifically from Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson. For the first two games at least, the Cavs are projected to start Kyrie Irving, Shumpert, LeBron James, Thompson, and Timofey Mozgov when Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals begins Monday, May 4.

As of Tuesday, April 28, the Chicago Bulls have a 3-2 season series lead over the Milwaukee Bucks in their first round series. History and experts say that Chicago will win the series after taking a 3-0 series lead, but it’s relatively unclear who will win after two straight Bucks victories.

Starting both Shumpert and Thompson makes the Cavaliers bench as thin as it’s been since the January trades, at least until J.R. Smith returns from his two-game ban. Shumpert and Thompson have both proven themselves as incredible hustle and dirty work players for the Cavs, which they’ll need regardless of whether they play the Bulls or the Bucks.

After the Game 3 victory in which Love scored 23 points while knocking down six three-pointers, LeBron James praised Love for his play and talked about how much they’ll need him.

“I think he’s a big-time player,” James said. “In order for us to be the team that we want to be long-term, Kevin is going to be Kevin.”

Matthew Dellavedova will have to play with a huge chip on his shoulder leading the second unit while sharpshooters James Jones and Mike Miller will have to be on top of their game to provide the bench with some necessary baskets and floor spacing for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

Speaking of James and Irving, the pressure is going to be on these two stars without Love in the lineup, as both are going to have to carry the loads offensively as well as defensively.

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