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NBA ICYMI: There’s Nothing Wrong With (Kevin) Love

The Cavs’ big man returned, providing Cleveland with a spark against the Bucks. Plus, another All-Star down in the Bay, Miami sets a franchise record for points, and everything else you may have missed from Monday night’s action.

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

All the need-to-know info from Monday night’s slate.

The Takeaway: Eat, Pray, Love (And Drink a Whole Lot of LeBron Wine)

Kevin Love returned to a basketball court near you on Monday after being out for 17 games with a fractured hand, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s almost like adding an All-Star is beneficial to a team full of role players surrounding LeBron. Love had an über-efficient 18 points on 13 shots in just 25 minutes. He made four 3s, added seven rebounds and four assists, and even had two blocks. For a returning performance, Love’s game was exactly what the doctor prescribed for a Cavs team in need of some consistency.

But on Monday against the Bucks, the Cavs also ended up needing a heavy dose of LeBron to beat the Milwaukee and move ahead of Indiana for sole possession of the 3-seed in the East. It was one of those times when LeBron had the game in the palm of his hand, and by that, I mean it felt like he was holding a controller to a video game, pacing the match with hot stretches of either jump shots (he was 16-of-29) or ferocious drives to the hoop like these:

And end-to-end plays like these, where you forget he’s actually 33 and not 23:

LeBron finished with a line that will elicit perhaps little more than a shrug emoji from onlookers because it’s easy to take him for granted at this point: 40 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, and a block. All in 40 minutes. He joined Larry Bird and Elgin Baylor as the only players to record 40-point triple-doubles at age 33 or older. The LeBron switch is starting to flip with only 12 games until the playoffs. Having Love to help do so won’t hurt either.

The Cheat Sheet

  • Kelly Olynyk stays killing dreams. Miami scored the most points in franchise history, 149, and beat the Nuggets (who have now fallen to the 10-seed out West) in a double-overtime thriller thanks to James Johnson’s career-high 31 points and Olynyk’s 30 points off the bench. It may be cliché, but that’s the Heat in a nutshell this season—anyone can become the star on any given night, and most nights, they need for that to happen. Miami’s ability to win close games is also a huge point of progress. As my close-game-obsessed colleague Haley O’Shaughnessy has outlined in previous ICYMIs, the Heat have been in 48 games within five points in the last five minutes—a league-high. On Monday, they were able to extend the close match into not one but two overtimes, and eventually put it away. Miami is now the 7-seed.
  • Draymond Green exits the game. The Warriors were already playing without Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson in San Antonio on Monday. In the second quarter, Draymond was kneed by Danny Green and exited the game. The team called it a “pelvis contusion” and Draymond did not return to the game.

The Spurs beat the Warriors B-team, 89-75, which added insult to injury, to injury, to injury, to injury, and gave San Antonio the 5-seed back.

  • The Homie Dario Saric was a plus-33. MKG was a minus-40. Philly eventually handled Charlotte, 108-94, but it was touch-and-go for a while, mostly due to the Hornets’ pesky bench, which scored 39 points. The problem? Charlotte’s starters, aside from Kemba Walker who scored 24, seemed to want to let the substitute teachers impart the lesson without giving them the material. They were a combined minus-95! The Sixers, for their part, won their third straight and now hold a two-game advantage over the Heat for the 6-seed.
  • Myles Turner looks healthy. The center suffered a high ankle sprain during a game against the Raptors last Thursday and missed the Pacers’ game against the Wizards on Saturday. But Turner returned Monday night and tallied a team-high 21 points, adding seven rebounds and three assists as Indiana beat the Lakers 110-100.

The Pacers’ grip on the 4-seed is half a game clear of the Wizards. But if you’re not here for basketball, here’s a clip of Victor Oladipo singing in the shower.

  • This Is 41: The Vince Carter Story
  • The Bulls took 30 3s … and made only three. That’s Tanking 101 for you. Chicago, however, is still one and a half games behind the Kings for the seventh-best lottery odds. Speaking of tanking, the Grizzlies, after breaking their 19-game losing streak on Saturday, were not about to get any sort of winning streak going. They lost 118-115 to the Nets in Brooklyn and are just half a game behind the Suns for the best lottery odds. [Extremely Dory in Finding Nemo voice] Just keep losing, just keep losing …

Play of the Night

I’d like to nominate Chandler Parsons for Comeback Player of the Year based on this play alone.

Bonus: Giannis doing Giannis things.

Make this the new logo. Please and thank you.

Correction: An earlier version of this piece omitted Elgin Baylor’s 40-point triple-double, which he recorded at age 34. (H/t to ESPN Stats & Info’s Jason Starrett.)