The Cavaliers may have fallen short against the Hawks, but the night continued with Kevin Love’s remarkable resurgence as a difference marker in the NBA.

Without Darius Garland, Ricky Rubio and Collin Sexton, the Cavaliers lacked serious plays and scoring.

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Love more than filled the void, pouring 35 points on 10 of 18 shots from the ground, including a 7 of 14 mark from long range. As usual, the veteran was productive in other parts of the scoring chart, adding 11 rebounds and four assists to accompany the barrage of touchdowns on a total stat line that left the Cavaliers scrambling for the record books.

The 35 points is Love’s highest-scoring game in more than four seasons, dating back to November 28, 2017. That night, Love lost 38 points in a major victory over the Miami Heat. Joining Love that night was LeBron James, with a certain veteran known in Dwyane Wade coming off the bench.

Tonight’s outburst is the continuation of a strong season for Love, who made his way into the Sixth Man of the Year conversation in what would be one of the most unlikely individual awards victories in recent memory.

Averaging 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game entering the season, Love sits near the top of the rankings in several categories when it comes to players coming off the bench in 2023.

In December, for players who played at least 10 games, Love ranks first in scoring (15.7 per game), third in rebounds (6.8 per game) and first in 3-point scoring (40).

By morphing into an award won predominantly by point guards, Love would join Montrezl Harrell (2020) as the only great man to take the award in the past decade.

While much of the attention surrounding the Cavaliers’ success early in the season has focused on the big-man duo of Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, Love’s consistent scoring presence off the bench has been a huge boost. Especially given the question marks in recent seasons about Love’s desire to stay in the franchise.

Now 20-16 on the season, Cleveland will face real adversity with Rubio and Sexton on the shelf for the season, but they remain in a good position to return to the postseason in what is one of the season’s enjoyable stories.

Whether or not Kevin Love wins Sixth Man of the Year is yet to be determined, but he will have a chance to play a big role in another Cavaliers postseason run.

Who saw that coming?