Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love has a history with the Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs, and it is not a positive one.
Two years ago, Love suffered a dislocated shoulder in Game 4 of the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. But when Love took the court for Game 1 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, he set a career playoff high with 32 points in the 117-104 victory at TD Garden Wednesday night.
“I didn't even think about it,” Love said. “It wasn't something that really crossed my mind.
“Having been hurt a couple years ago in the playoffs in the first round, I didn't get a chance to play in the Eastern Conference Finals when we were on the road. So, we really got off to a great start. It was a great atmosphere, and more than anything else, focused on that and our gameplan.”
Although the Celtics responded with five straight points out of a timeout early in the second quarter after the Cavaliers took a 36-20 lead, Cleveland went back to work and put together a 12-0 run over the next three-plus minutes.
Reserve guard Iman Shumpert got the run started when he buried a three-pointer from 26 feet away. Then, Love scored five of the Cavaliers’ next seven points when he converted a pair of free throws and followed up with a three-pointer from the left wing.
“I thought I got a lot of great shots and was being aggressive in the first, so it wasn't just me,” Love said. “I felt like everybody was moving the ball, passing the ball well, and like I mentioned, on both ends of the floor our gameplan was pretty tight.”
Love got the Cavaliers rolling in the second half when he drew a shooting foul while attempting a three-pointer and knocked down all three of the ensuing free throws. Love followed that up with a three-pointer from 25 feet away on the Cavaliers’ second possession of the third quarter.
Out of a timeout, point guard Kyrie Irving set up a pair of Love three-point attempts, and the veteran shooter knocked down both of his looks from long range. The first one came when Irving passed up a good look at a three-pointer from the top of the key and got the ball over to the right wing, where Love buried the first of back-to-back threes.
Then, on the next trip down the floor, Irving started to lose a handle on the ball, but got enough on a pass to move it over to Love, who fired and buried another open three-pointer, which gave the Cavaliers an 88-60 lead with 5:05 to play in the third quarter.
During a 15-4 late third-quarter run from the Celtics, Love had the Cavaliers’ only basket, and again, it came from long distance.
“I just want to win,” Love said. “I know I can impact the game whether it shows up in the stat sheet or not.
“I think that has allowed me to be comfortable out there on the floor, knowing that my mindset is really there, still being aggressive and making plays, as I mentioned, whether those are showing up or not. But just having all these guys' back and being there for them is huge, and I embrace that.”