The last time Kevin Love addressed the media after a postseason
game, his left shoulder was in a sling and surgery was in his
Love and Irving are back healthy now following a pair of grueling
rehabs. Whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers could have won a
championship last season if both stayed healthy will never be known,
but they were crucial to the Cavs' opening playoff victory Sunday.
Love, Irving and LeBron James lived up to the Big Three's billing by
combining for 81 points in the Cavs' 106-101 victory against the
Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round
series. Irving scored 31 points, Love had 28 and James had 22. All
three made crucial plays in important moments after the Pistons
seemed poised to pull a stunning upset to start the series.
"I thought the Big Three did a phenomenal job," Cavs coach Tyronn
Lue said. "Kevin set the tone early posting up, getting into the
paint and getting a couple of fouls. It all started from there."
But it wasn't easy. The Cavs survived a shooting onslaught from the
Pistons, who made 15 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from beyond the
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 points for the Pistons, and
Marcus Morris scored 20 -- but just one in the second half.
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy lamented some of the mistakes he made.
He wouldn't go into detail, but he acknowledged he may have stuck
with a struggling Tobias Harris for too long while ignoring Stanley
Johnson, who made all three of his 3-point attempts but didn't play
much in the second half.
"The first thing that comes to my mind is things I could have done
differently to give us a better chance to win the game," Van Gundy
said. "You're in a playoff series, and I'm not really looking to
stay close, that's not my objective here. We're here to try to win
games, and we didn't get it done tonight, and I think I had a
considerable amount to do with that."
The Pistons led at halftime and entering the fourth quarter. A
3-pointer from Reggie Bullock with 11:03 left allowed the Pistons to
match their largest advantage of the game at 83-76, forcing the
Cavaliers to call a timeout to get James back in the game.
Love shifted to center, James entered at power forward and the Cavs
took off. They needed just 1:40 to tie the game at 83. They slowly
took control the rest of the way behind their stars.
"It's not about the statistical categories," James said. "It
definitely starts with us. It starts with our mindset. It starts
with how we approach the game, from a mental side, from a physical
side, from a spiritual side. But as far as the stats, those things
will take care of themselves."
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The Pistons made nine 3-pointers a game in the regular season, and
the Cavs limited opponents to fewer than eight per game. However,
Detroit made 10 in the first half Sunday and sent the Cavaliers
defenders scrambling unsuccessfully to the perimeter.
It was reminiscent of 2009 when Stan Van Gundy spread the floor with
shooters around Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic shot their way
past the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. Except this
time it is Andre Drummond in the middle, and the Pistons aren't
exactly a prolific 3-point shooting team.
Drummond had 13 points and 11 rebounds after he was held to two
points and four rebounds in the first half. Reggie Jackson had 17
points and seven assists and was assessed a costly technical late in
the game when he charged toward official Derrick Stafford to
complain after a no-foul call.
"I wish I could get the call," Jackson said. "I wish they could see
me get slapped on the arm. It felt to me like it was blatantly
Game 2 is Wednesday night at Cleveland.
NOTES: This is the third time the Cavs entered the playoffs as the
top seed in the East. They lost in the conference finals in 2009 and
the conference semifinals in 2010. ... Cleveland improved to 85-84
all time in postseason games. ... Sunday marked LeBron James' 179th
career postseason game, tying him with Michael Jordan for 17th place
in NBA history. ... The Pistons' 12-game improvement this season
tied for the fourth-largest turnaround in the NBA. The New York
Knicks (plus-15) had the biggest turnaround. ... Pistons coach Stan
Van Gundy has never been swept in a playoff series in his career.
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