Kevin Love to Aaron Rodgers: ‘I’ve got the best QBR in New York’
Kevin Love was hesitant, but with Aaron Rodgers sitting courtside, he had to let it fly.
Love had already done it twice in the third quarter of the Heat’s Game 1 victory over the Knicks on Sunday, but this time was different. This time, he fired a two-handed, full-court outlet pass over 2022 Slam Dunk Champion Obi Toppin’s leaping contest as Miami’s star Jimmy Butler out jumped Toppin to catch the ball, then proceeded with an uncontested two-handed dunk.
Then Love saw Rodgers, the newly acquired Jets savior at the quarterback position, sitting nearby.
“I said ‘I’ve got the best QBR (quarterback rating) in New York,’” the Heat big man said postgame. “He hasn’t played a game yet here, but I saw him sitting over there. We’re friendly, so I went and said hello.
“I saw him sitting there, so, might as well throw something at him.”
If the Jets are lucky, Rodgers will have the same kind of connection with his newfound receiving corps as the veteran Heat big man has with his South Beach targets.
Throwing full-court outlet passes has been a staple of Love’s game everywhere he’s gone, namely Cleveland during his championship run with the Cavaliers alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. He had practice throwing these kinds of outlet passes dating back to his college days at UCLA playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison, two superior athletes at the guard spot.
The Heat don’t practice Love’s outlet pass throwing. It’s a unique aspect of his game that makes him one of the more special players of all-time at his position.
“I wish we could say we teach it. We don’t,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame. “There’s not many guys in the association that can throw it 90 feet much less see the play happen, and then, on time, on target. That’s an incredible skill set he has.”
Those passes helped turn Game 1 in Miami’s favor. Love connected on three full-court outlet passes that led to baskets in a four-minute span in the third quarter. He found Max Strus with a two-handed, over-the-top, baseline-to-baseline outlet pass that led to a transition bucket for the Heat around the eight-minute mark.
A minute later, he found Butler streaking down the middle of the court wide-open for another dime.
“We definitely gotta communicate better,” Toppin said of the leak-out opportunities the Knicks afforded the Heat on Sunday. “That’s only Game 1. It’s the first to win four. We just gotta go back to watching the film and fixing the problems that we had today.”
As for Love, he thinks he might be able to out-throw Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa — if they switch to a basketball.
“I don’t think so — eh,” he said, reconsidering. “I don’t think so. With a pigskin? Absolutely not. With a basketball, if we switched, it might look ugly for both of those, but certainly not with a football.”
Starting Knicks center Mitchell Robinson says he’s in a considerable amount of pain after suffering a hip injury in Game 1.
Robinson lost his footing while defending Heat guard Gabe Vincent on a drive to the rim in the second quarter. The seven-foot shot-blocker slipped to the floor and immediately grabbed his left hip while rolling on the ground in pain. He played 33 minutes and logged 14 rebounds and two blocks, but was clearly limited on the floor and hobbled throughout the second half.
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When asked postgame if he was banged up, Robinson’s response was one word.
The Knicks need Robinson at his best if they’re going to bounce back after forfeiting home-court advantage with the Game 1 loss. After dominating the first-round series against the Cleveland Cavaliers with his presence on the boards and protecting the rim, Robinson’s impact — outside of a ferocious two-handed alley-oop finish on a lob from R.J. Barrett — was negligible.
“Keeping him off the glass — board man gets paid,” Love said of Robinson. “It’s not easy keeping that 7-1 off the glass, 270 whatever he is.”
Knicks star Jalen Brunson shot just 11-of-23 from the field to get to 25 points in Game 1. He dished seven assists but also turned the ball over five times.
Head coach Tom Thibodeau said Miami didn’t do anything uncharacteristic to force him into a poor shooting night by his own standards.
“They’re gonna make him work. That’s what he faces every game,” Thibodeau said. “So, gotta take a look — he didn’t make his threes, but for the most part, I thought they were great looks. He shot 40 percent for 82 games, so we got a lot of confidence in him shooting the ball.”