When the All-Star break takes over Toronto, one familiar face at the NBA's midseason attraction won't be there. Kyrie Irving was left off the Eastern Conference team after missing a significant chunk of the season to a knee injury and uneven play. While LeBron James predictably made the team, Kevin Love has been healthy but just missed a reserve selection. While James won't be lonely in Toronto with Tyronn Lue and the Cavs staff around, it's a surprising turn for a team with the star power of the Cavs.
That star power was apparent Friday night in Detroit. It starts with Love, who had it going from all areas. 29 points on 19 shots while providing excellent spacing for Irving and James drives, he's just a tough matchup for the Detroit Pistons. They run Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver at the four, two guys who are meant to approximate what Love does shooting the ball. Unfortunately, neither of them have the ability to guard Love and he took advantage tonight. Both are also relatively one-dimensional, and Love had success closing out on them.
With Tristan Thompson doing the dirty work with Andre Drummond and the Pistons refusing to put Marcus Morris at the four where he might have been able to give Love some trouble defensively, the 2012 Olympian put on an offensive clinic.
He was helped by Kyrie Irving, who coach Tyronn Lue said helped set the tone defensively early on. Indeed, the Pistons shredded the Cavs in the pick and roll with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond in the win Detroit notched earlier in the season. That didn't happen Friday night. Jackson finished with 16 points on 15 shots, and Tristan Thompson was kept out of impossible 2 on 1 situations in which Drummond could finish easy lobs or put backs. Irving wasn't perfect, of course, but on this night he was focused and ready to play.
He's not hitting three point shots, still, but this was a game that Irving found a way to be consistently effective offensively. With the Pistons trying to make a run early in the fourth quarter, Lue went to a defense and Irving lineup with Love, Thompson, and James all on the bench. Irving got buckets, as he tends to do, and the Cavs maintained their lead before reinforcements arrived. 28 points on 19 shots, one of the most efficient scoring nights Irving has had this season.
The Cavs improved to 33-12, and the Cavs have been very good with Love and Irving on the floor this season. Neither will play in the All-Star game (barring an injury that would free up a spot for Love, perhaps), but Cavs fans will take nights like this.