Big 3 score 81 points as Cavs edge Pistons

Sun Apr 17, 2016 8:36pm EDT
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(The Sports Xchange) - The last time Kyrie Irving climbed onto a podium at Quicken Loans Arena, he needed help getting down because his crutches and bulky knee brace prevented an easy exit.

The last time Kevin Love addressed the media after a postseason game, his left shoulder was in a sling and surgery was in his future.

Love and Irving are back healthy now following a pair of grueling rehabs. Whether or not the Cleveland Cavaliers could have won a championship last season if both stayed healthy will never be known, but they were crucial to the Cavs' opening playoff victory Sunday.

Love, Irving and LeBron James lived up to the Big Three's billing by combining for 81 points in the Cavs' 106-101 victory against the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series. Irving scored 31 points, Love had 28 and James had 22. All three made crucial plays in important moments after the Pistons seemed poised to pull a stunning upset to start the series.

"I thought the Big Three did a phenomenal job," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "Kevin set the tone early posting up, getting into the paint and getting a couple of fouls. It all started from there."

But it wasn't easy. The Cavs survived a shooting onslaught from the Pistons, who made 15 3-pointers and shot 52 percent from beyond the arc.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 points for the Pistons, and Marcus Morris scored 20 -- but just one in the second half.

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy lamented some of the mistakes he made. He wouldn't go into detail, but he acknowledged he may have stuck with a struggling Tobias Harris for too long while ignoring Stanley Johnson, who made all three of his 3-point attempts but didn't play much in the second half.

"The first thing that comes to my mind is things I could have done differently to give us a better chance to win the game," Van Gundy said. "You're in a playoff series, and I'm not really looking to stay close, that's not my objective here. We're here to try to win games, and we didn't get it done tonight, and I think I had a considerable amount to do with that."   Continued...

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) passes the ball as Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) defends during the second half in game one of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavs beat the Pistons 106-101. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports