No. 8 seed Detroit had gone blow for blow with top-seeded Cavaliers for three quarters, and the Pistons landed a couple hard punches early in the fourth period, taking a seven-point lead.
“This is right where we want to be, right here,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy told his team. “Right where we want to be.”
But then Cleveland showed the beauty of its star-studded roster. Even when the Cavs are far from where they want to be, their versatility provides options. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue broke out an extreme one earlier than expected in the playoffs:
Kevin Love at center.
The Cavaliers outscored the Pistons by 13 with Love at center in the fourth quarter of a 106-101 win Sunday.
Love (28 points and 13 rebounds) excelled throughout the game, but his floor-spacing as a center took Cleveland to another level offensively. He also prevented Detroit from exposing him on the other end, though Van Gundy will surely hone in on ways to attack a center-playing Love in Game 2.
LeBron James moves to 11-0 in first-round Game 1s, but none had been this close.
LeBron (22 points, 11 assists, only one turnover) played well, particularly as a passer. Cleveland committed just five turnovers and found good shots. It also helps when to have scorers like Kyrie Irving (31 points, six assists, only one turnover).
A solid game from Cleveland wasn’t enough for an easy win, because the streaky Pistons made 15-of-29 3-pointers. Detroit’s own passing created a reasonable number of open looks, but that hot outside shooting probably isn’t sustainable.
And if it somehow is? Lue can re-shuffle his stars and try to find another ace adjustment.