Kevin Love NBA Finals appearances: A timeline of Heat veteran's playoff runs, record in championships
By Jacob Camenker,2023-06-01
There are a few constants in life. Death, taxes and Kevin Love making it to the NBA Finals every time his team makes the postseason.
Love hasn't always been on good teams during his NBA career. In fact, he has only made the playoffs once in the 11 seasons that he has played without LeBron James.
But every time that Love has made the playoffs during his career, his team has fought until the postseason's bitter end.
Even in 2023, Love's Heat squad made it to the NBA Finals despite being the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. They had to win a spot during the play-in tournament before knocking off the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics to set up a date with the Nuggets.
It was a daunting task for the underdog Heat, but they managed to get it done. And now, Love will once again get a chance to suit up for some NBA Finals action and fight for his second career NBA championship.
Here's what to know about Love's career NBA Finals appearances, his playoff record and his history in NBA championship series.
Kevin Love NBA Finals appearances
Love has made it to the NBA Finals five times during his career. Four of those appearances came during his time with the Cavaliers, when he teamed up with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to make a "Big 3" in Cleveland.
Love was traded from the Timberwolves to the Cavaliers during the 2014 offseason. Cleveland managed to make the NBA Finals in each of the next four seasons that comprised James' second stint with the Cavs.
However, after James left to join the Lakers during the 2018 offseason, the Cavaliers fell on tough times. Love remained with the team, but the team didn't make another playoff appearance until 2023; by then, Love had been released and signed with the Heat to provide the team with frontcourt depth.
The Heat entered the 2023 postseason as a play-in tournament participant and were nearly eliminated after a loss to the Hawks and a near-loss to the Bulls. Since then, the No. 8 seed has gotten hot, knocking out the Bucks, Knicks and Celtics en route to their first NBA Finals appearance since the 2020 NBA bubble.
So to recap, Love has made the NBA Finals in the following five seasons:
|2015||Cavaliers||Warriors||GSW wins 4-2|
|2016||Cavaliers||Warriors||CLE wins 4-3|
|2017||Cavaliers||Warriors||GSW wins 4-1|
|2018||Cavaliers||Warriors||GSW wins 4-0|
Incredibly, Love has never failed to make it to the NBA Finals when his teams have qualified for the postseason. And before the 2023 NBA Finals, he had only squared off against one team — the Warriors — in all of his finals appearances.
Kevin Love playoff record, stats
Love's teams have posted an impressive playoff record of 67-32 ahead of the 2023 NBA Finals. That is thanks largely to the pristine records that the Cavaliers posted in the early stages of the playoffs.
Cleveland had a record of 32-5 in the first two rounds of the postseason during Love's time there. They swept six of the eight series they played during that four-year span, so that is what gives Love such a high winning percentage.
During his playoff career, Love has averaged 13.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists while playing 28.4 minutes per game across 79 contests. He missed 20 of his team's games over the years with a plethora of injuries — most notably, a dislocated shoulder during the 2015 playoffs that cost him all but four games — but has been productive when on the court.
Below is a look at Love's per-game postseason stats on a year-by-year basis:
Has Kevin Love won a championship?
Yes, Kevin Love has won one championship during his career. That came during the 2016 NBA Finals in the second of four consecutive Cavaliers vs. Warriors championship battles.
The Cavaliers emerged with a 4-3 series victory in a Game 7 that was punctuated by LeBron James' monster block on Warriors forward Andre Iguodala. Love averaged just 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game in 26.8 minutes per game. He played in just six of the seven contests, missing Game 3 as he dealt with the after-effects of a concussion suffered in Game 2.
Despite his injury and shooting struggles, Love helped the Cavaliers win their first-ever championship. It turned out to be the only one that the triumvirate of James, Love and Irving would win together.
Now, Love will be the lone member of that trio with a title shot in 2023.
Kevin Love playoff timeline
Below is a brief summary of Love's five trips to the postseason. Here's a look at the roles he played with the Cavaliers and the one he is currently playing for the Heat.
2015 NBA playoffs
Love's first trip to the postseason was a short one. The Cavaliers made it all the way to the NBA Finals, but Love was sidelined for all but four games. Why? Because he suffered a dislocated shoulder and torn labrum in Game 4 of the team's opening-round series against the Celtics.
The injury occurred when Love and then-Celtics center Kelly Olynyk were fighting for a rebound. Olynyk grabbed Love by the arm and appeared to pull him away from the ball, causing the injury.
Love later accused Olynyk of injuring him on purpose, and the play was hotly debated because of that. Regardless, Love faced a four-to-six-month recovery window and finished the postseason having averaged 14.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game in four contests.
The Cavaliers would go on to lose 4-2 to the Warriors in the 2015 NBA Finals.
2016 NBA playoffs
The 2016 postseason went a bit better for Love, as he was largely able to stay on the court. Love scored 20-plus points six times in the first three rounds of the postseason and recorded five 20-point double-doubles during that stretch.
While Love was a key force alongside James and Irving in the first three series, his importance dwindled in the NBA Finals against the Warriors for reasons that were not entirely his fault. Love suffered a concussion in Game 2 of the seven-game series and that caused him to be held out of Game 3.
Love returned to action in Game 4, but he played in a reduced role. Tristan Thompson and Richard Jefferson saw increased action as a result of that and helped key the Cavaliers to three consecutive wins to close the series.
In all, Love played just 25 minutes per game starting in Game 4 and averaged 7.3 points and 6.3 rebounds. He did, however, played 30 minutes and generated a team-high 14 rebounds in Game 7, so he had an impact on Cleveland winning its first NBA title.
2017 NBA playoffs
Love started the 2017 NBA playoffs in a hot-and-cold manner, alternating double-digit scoring outputs with single-digit ones and exhibiting some shooting issues. He shot 38.5 percent from the field or worse in four of nine games which led some to worry about his performance ahead of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Those concerns turned out to be unwarranted. Love dominated the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics — a series that the Cavaliers won in five games — and averaged 22.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 48.6 percent from the field.
Cavaliers fans were hopeful that Love could find similar success against the Warriors after dominating the young and banged-up Celtics. However, inconsistencies plagued the big man once again in the NBA Finals. He was a force on the boards and grabbed 21 of them in the series opener, but he struggled shooting the ball.
Ultimately, Love averaged a double-double of 16 points and 11.2 rebounds during the NBA Finals, but he shot just 38.8 percent from the field. The Cavaliers dropped the series to the Warriors in five games, as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson's hot shooting simply proved too much for Cleveland to counter, especially with Love going cold.
2018 NBA playoffs
Once again, Love's performance in the postseason was hit or miss, and it varied greatly from round to round. In the first round, a seven-game series against the Pacers, Love made 38.5 percent or less of his field goals in all but one game. His cold shooting nearly allowed the Cavaliers to become victim to a massive upset against Indiana, but the team still managed to advance.
After that, things got a bit easier. The Cavaliers handled the Raptors with ease in a four-game sweep. Love was at his best during that series, averaging 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds over the four games to set up a rematch with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Love rebounded well in that series, averaging 9.8 per game, but he scored just 23 points in Games 4 through 6 combined. He suffered another concussion early in Game 6 and that knocked him out for the rest of that contest and Game 7.
James was still able to get the Cavs to the NBA Finals, but they went out with a whimper. The Warriors swept them as Love averaged 19 points and 11.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 40.6 percent from the field.
Love's inefficiencies were especially glaring during the 2018 postseason. Kyrie Irving was no longer there to serve as the No. 2 option next to James and it was clear that Love simply wasn't the true star player he once was. That was part of the reason that the Cavaliers struggled after James left during the 2018 offseason and why the team failed to make the playoffs again until 2023 even with Love in tow.
2023 NBA playoffs
At this stage in his career, the 34-year-old Love is merely a role player for the Heat. He was released by the Cavaliers after falling out of their rotation and caught on with a Heat team that desperately needed size.
Love now largely serves as a stretch-four on offense and a rebounder on defense for Miami. He was starting for the team for most of the postseason, but after Caleb Martin's explosive play in the Eastern Conference Finals, he found himself coming off the bench.
Entering the 2023 NBA Finals, Love is averaging 6.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. He is shooting just 37.6 percent from the field, but nearly 73 percent of his shots have come from behind the arc. So, that number is a bit more respectable than it would seem.
Still, Love didn't play in the final two games of the Eastern Conference Finals, as Martin and Haywood Highsmith were given increased playing time. Love's size may be more useful in this series given the presence of Nikola Jokic, however, so it will be interesting to see how much action he gets in this series — if he gets any at all.