Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – When the Cavaliers lost JR Smith in the second half of Game 2 against the Pacers, the team needed a boost. While Iman Shumpert replaced Smith’s role of defending Paul George, the catalyst of a 33-20 third quarter became the final member of the Big 3.
After a late run in the second, the Pacers drew within five of the Wine and Gold at half, but the efforts of Kevin Love gave the Cavaliers what proved to be the margin for error they needed to close out the game, 117-111.
It didn’t start as well for Love as it ended, as the power forward took what looked to be two charges against the Pacers, but both were called as blocking fouls, despite Love being out of the restricted area.
The second of those two plays drew the ire of all 20,562 in attendance, as well as LeBron James, who was assessed a technical foul for his defiance.
“When you see your teammate actually sit there and take the charge, and we’re not rewarded with the call, it goes the other way,” James said. “Because then I was awarded with a technical.”
Eventually, a third attempt at drawing an offensive foul was successful, as Love absorbed the knee of the 6-foot-9, 285 pound Kevin Seraphin.
Love said he saw a hole in the Cavaliers defense against the Pacers upon review of their Game 1 tape.
“I think just breaking down the film after Sunday’s game just that between Tristan and myself and Channing, ‘Bron, whoever was low on some of those pindowns and rotations, we just had to be there early,” he said. “I just want to help my teammates out, sacrifice my body, and I feel like I did that tonight. Whether or not it got called or not, I feel like it’s setting the tone for the rest of the team that, more than anything being a selfless act and giving your body up – you hope it goes the right way.”
Amidst the defensive play that threw the crowd and Cavalier bench into a frenzy, Love was busy on the offensive end. The 28-year old was able to score 10 straight points whilst being guarded by Pacer guard Lance Stephenson.
Indiana played a small lineup, allowing the 6-10 Love to post up the 6-5 Stephenson, and the man with the height advantage used it.
Head coach Tyronn Lue said Love’s momentum outweighed that of his defender.
“Lance got excited because he made a couple shots and started talking stuff to the bench,” Lue said. “So when we went back at him and he was scoring the basketball and getting to the free throw line, it got the crowd into it, it got our bench into it. If they’re going to play small like that, Kevin should dominate.”
Always one for great positioning, Love was able to get deep position from the mismatch, but thanked James and Kyrie Irving for their court vision.
“I also think it was these guys and the guys out there were finding me,” Love said. “Got into a good rhythm with that, a number of guys stepped it up throughout the game, these guys took over in the fourth quarter. That was just a moment in the game that we took advantage of a certain situation and they kept feeding me.”
Love ended a perfect 12-of-12 from the free throw line en route to his final line of 27 points and 11 rebounds. He was his normal self in the first frame, ending the first 12 minutes with 10 points on a perfect 3-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from the stripe, to go with 7 rebounds.
“Like Kyrie always says, just do your job,” Love added. “I knew I had to get myself going, and these guys kept feeding me. We got in the bonus early and we just kept going to it. The energy really picked up on the defensive end, it dictated what we were doing on the offensive end and from there we never really looked back and it was a good third quarter for us.”