Much to love about Love playing through back spasms in Cavs’ win over Lakers

Kevin Love loves to play here.

He was born in Santa Monica and starred at UCLA for one season before entering the NBA Draft.

And this is the city that’s constantly rumored to be his next NBA stop.

When his name was just about to be read in pregame introductions Thursday night against the Lakers, Love jumped up too fast and felt something. A sudden case of back spasms right before tip-off.

LeBron James asked for one thing. Whatever Love could give.

Love had plenty, despite walking gingerly around Staples Center while the Cleveland Cavaliers were limping in on a six-game skid. His game — 17 points, seven rebounds, one steal, one assist and one big charge taken — could be a turning point in the season for the Cavaliers, who got back to .500 with a 109-102 win,€“ as they battle controversy over team discord and coaching authority.

"You have instances during the season where you feel you got closer and I think what Kevin did tonight, playing through injuries, he could have easily sat down for the rest of the game. He toughed it out," James said.

"I said, ‘Whatever you got. Whatever you can give.’ He did that. He knocked down a 3, he battled on the glass, and even with his back basically feeling like he couldn’t play no more, he took a charge. Those are moments in a season where you know your team is taking a step forward. To have one of your big guys do that, that was huge."

James referred to a charge Love took against Jeremy Lin midway through the third quarter. The Cavaliers went on to outscore the Lakers 22-14 in that quarter for a 79-75 lead they wouldn’t lose.

"I actually was laughing when it happened because I needed a second to gather my thoughts," Love said. "If that would’ve been called a block, I don’t know if I would’ve been able to get up. I tried to laugh it off and got back up. That was a funny moment but for lack of a better term bittersweet because we were going the other way, but it didn’t feel too great."

It wasn’t the smartest thing to do with his back barking at him and a back-to-back game with the Clippers scheduled for Friday, but it was effective and emotional and could have far-reaching benefits for these struggling Cavaliers.

"That was the play of the game," Cavaliers coach David Blatt said. "Everyone is asking me again. Kevin Love is doing a lot of things that he hasn’t done in the past, and he’s doing them well. Again, I take my hat off to him for his performance."

And the way Love handled that fourth-quarter benching in the previous game against Phoenix. (Not the first time that has happened, because his defense at times has been a liability.) Love didn’t sulk but rather played hurt in an effort to help his team any way he could.

It’s surely not the way his return to Los Angeles would’ve been drawn up — slowly walking around with hands on hips — but the result was worth it.

"I don’t know if it was running on adrenalin, but after having a poor effort last game I wanted to go out there and make any impact I possibly could and give our team a lift," Love said. "I don’t know if I did but I tried to make a couple big plays or any play I could knowing I wasn’t going to mix it up inside like usual. Tried to just be in the right position and do whatever I could to help the team."

And now he’ll be asked to do the same again Friday, when Cleveland plays the Clippers at Staples Center to finish its Western Conference road trip.

"I hope I’m able to play," Love said. "I know the first time, early in the season, I was able to bounce back pretty quickly. We don’t have to travel. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a good night’s rest and re-evaluate tomorrow. I hope to play tomorrow."