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Cleveland Cavaliers playbook: How Kevin Love bullied the Pistons

The Pistons were hesitant to have Andre Drummond defend him, and Love made them pay.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Detroit Pistons Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

From the start on Tuesday, the Pistons tried to hide Andre Drummond on Jae Crowder and kept him away from Kevin Love. The idea, it seemed, was to put Drummond on lesser three-point shooter so he could hide in the paint, rebound and protect the rim.

This didn’t work for a few reasons. For one, Crowder moved well off the ball, hit three-pointers and was hard for Drummond to track. But Love also made the Pistons pay for leaving Tobias Harris on him.

Here, the Cavs get Love a touch on his preferred left block. All he does is dribble, bump into Harris and get the easy jump hook. The Cavs will take this every time:

Later, Love again posts up against Harris. Avery Bradley hints at helping, doesn’t really commit and Drummond doesn’t fully leave Crowder to double either. That gives Love another opportunity he takes full advantage of:

As the game went on, the Pistons used Drummond on Love, forcing the Cavs to attack in a different way. Here, Love looks like he’s going to set a screen, but instead slips quick enough so Drummond has to stay on LeBron James and Stanley Johnson has to switch onto Love near the rim. One pinpoint LeBron pass later and Love racks up another two points:

Evaluating post-ups in the modern NBA is tricky. They can be wastes of possessions, black holes in an offense where a team might be better served moving the ball and looking for something more dynamic.

But against the Pistons, and other teams playing smaller fours or even some smaller fives, Love at center unlocks some worthwhile post-up opportunities. It’s also not a mistake that Love’s one three-point make against the Pistons came when he was guarded by Eric Moreland, a more traditional, rim protecting center.

How the Cavs attacked the Pistons, and let Love bully smaller defenders, is a template for how they can best use him this season. It’s a variation of what they’ve done to get him going in two wins against the Bucks, and it’s something they’ll likely turn to in games against the likes of the Raptors, Celtics and Wizards. It’s not the most chic option, but allowing Love to bully smaller defenders is effective offense.