Kevin Love and the Cavs looked to quiet the skeptics, as they sailed to a 114-106 victory, a score that made the game seem closer than it actually was. Three Cavs scored over 20 — LeBron contributed 20, while Love (29) and Irving (28) both put on solid performances. Early on, the goal seemed to be to create a two-man game between Kyrie and Love, a smart plan as they try to build Love’s confidence and limit LeBron’s usage on the front end of a back-to-back, especially with the Spurs tomorrow night. It worked well, as Love dropped 10 in the first, and spent time both handling the ball on the block and on the elbow, as well as dropping into catch and shoot positions. Although, reasonably Love’s offense wasn’t something to be concerned about. If the team commits to finding ways to get him the ball in clever situations, he will put up points. It’s just a matter of what that attention and time detract from.
As we all know at this point, the problem is with his defense, and how he seems to get sucked into picks and/or loses both the roll man and the guard, allowing easy baskets. He’s not a bad one-on-one defender, and I would like to see the Cavs put him into more situations where he has to guard a good roll man, like Andre Drummund, because, if he wants to make an impact in the playoffs, which turns into a half court-heavy, tried and true plays slugfest, he’s going to have to get to the point where he’s not an easy exploitation. On a more positive note, Mozgov is looking a lot more comfortable in motion and protecting the rim.
Overall, the team seemed comfortable and on the same page. They forced the pistons into some back shots and kept them off the offensive glass. The quarter finished 33-27 Cavs.
Two thoughts about the second quarter: 1) Kyrie’s ability to score in bursts and create instant offense closes the gaps in terms of scoring droughts that often happen when other key players rest, which is obviously extremely valuable, but, he rightfully seems to realize that he needs to continue to build on his skills as a distributor. And, when you’re able to suck in a defense like he does, what that could open up might be the final step to the Cavs releasing their full offensive potential. 2) When you feed Love early and often and make an effort to integrate him — or essentially revolve the offense around him — it seems to be night and day in terms of how he performs. He’s a confidence and rhythm player. This is something that both he and the team will have to figure out.
Love finished the half with 19, Kyrie with 16 and LeBron with 10. 66-58, Cavs.
Quick notes from the second half:
— Tristan played a nice game on Drummond, battling in the trenches, and supplementing that with easy points when needed, finishing with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
— Kyrie’s mid-range game must be frustrating for the other team.
— I would like to see Love spend more time at center, but I’m a sucker for having five shooters on the floor at once. He played a pretty good game on the defensive end. But, for most of the night, he was matched up against the watered-down version of himself.
— The Cavs seemed collected late in the shot clock. They kept their cool, made the extra pass and the right decisions under pressure.
— The Cavs are playing slightly faster, but they took care of the ball, only committing seven turnovers.
— There was only one lead change. The game was tied three times.
— The Cavs out-rebounded the Pistons 47-39, which was huge. The Pistons had more points in the paint — 48-36 — but they only shot 7-23 from three.
— Overall, it was a good win against a team that can present a lot of trouble. The Cavs controlled the pace, got the shots they were looking for and took away the Pistons' strengths. Let’s see if they can do the same on a back-to-back against a really deep Spurs team tomorrow.