BOSTON — Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers have a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics, but earning that advantage hasn’t been easy for the Central Division champs.
The Celtics have had a few first-half leads and were within 10 points for most of the fourth quarter in Game 2 before the Cavs pulled away late. Cleveland also has just 14 fastbreak points in two games and is receiving very little scoring production — seven points in Game 2 — from its bench.
Back home at TD Garden for their first home playoff game since 2013, the Celtics will present a stiff challenge for the Cavs in Game 3 on Thursday night, Love said.
“It’s going to be a tough test for us here (Thursday night), especially away from home for the first time in these playoffs,” Love said at Thursday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden. “We know we’re going to have a tough game on our hands. … Just an us-against-the-world type feel, we know it’s going to be rockin’ here tonight. They have good fans. We have to bring our A-game.”
Love, who spent the first six seasons of his career on many bad Minnesota Timberwolves teams, had never been in the playoffs before this series. He had a rough start to Game 1 and appeared tentative, particularly on the offensive end, where several of his outside shots barely grazed the rim. He finished the series opener with a strong second half and concluded his playoff debut with 19 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes.
Love took a bit of a step back in Game 2 with 13 points and just six rebounds. He also wasn’t very efficient, shooting 3-for-8 from the field, including a 1-for-5 mark on 3-point attempts. His four turnovers and five fouls didn’t help Cleveland’s cause, either.
“Last game was a pretty ugly one, they obviously wanted to muck it up,” Love said. “That’s what they did. We had a number of turnovers that were uncharacteristic of us. I think both me and (Timofey Mozgov) got in foul trouble, so there were different points throughout the game where we had to come together and clean things up. A lot like Game 1, just a different feel.”
The veteran power forward is glad his first playoff game is behind him, but playing on the road for the first time presents a new, different challenge. One way for Love to get going is for his teammates to look for him early in the first quarter, specifically in the low post, where he can use his arsenal of post moves and maybe pick up some fouls on Boston’s frontcourt players.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James understands the importance of his supporting cast getting into a rhythm early on, which is evident from his time with the Miami Heat when he looked for Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and others right off the bat. Don’t be surprised if James tries to involve Love in the offense in the first few minutes.
Thumbnail photo via Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports Images