RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Kevin Love gave Cleveland Cavaliers fans a glimpse of what he can bring to the team this season.
After a quiet night from LeBron James and with Kyrie Irving injured, it was Love who came through for Cleveland in a 122-119 overtime win over the Miami Heat in a preseason game in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday.
Most eyes were on James’ encounter with his former teammates, but it was Love who quickly grabbed the spotlight, finishing with 25 points to lead all scorers at the HSBC Arena.
In his second game with the Cavs since being acquired in a trade with Minnesota, Love said he feels he is starting to fit in with his new team.
“I think it’s just picking my spots and, more than anything, just being aggressive,” he said. “Talking to the coaching staff and the players in this team, they told me what they expect out of me and (what they) need out of me for this team to be successful. So I listen to LeBron and the guys. We are all trying to find a rhythm out there.”
Love was 9 for 12 from the floor with four 3-pointers. He also grabbed seven rebounds in the 26 minutes he played.
“Obviously, his feeling about being in this great place helped him play a terrific game,” Cavs coach David Blatt said. “I thought Kevin was very good at both ends of the court. It seems that he found his way today in our team.
“I think for any new player in a new system like we have, and a new environment and new team, it’s going to take some time, but Kevin, with his great basketball IQ, figured it out very quickly.”
The Cavs again didn’t see much of James, who scored seven points in 20 minutes. He sat out the entire second half in the team’s 107-80 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv in its first game on Oct. 5.
Love had played 23 minutes against Maccabi Tel Aviv, scoring eight points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Much of the action passed through Love on Saturday, and while he was on the floor, Cleveland held a comfortable lead against the revamped Heat.
“As a team we are still in our infant stages,” Love said. “Every day is a chance to get better and we felt like this trip was very important for us.”
The Cavs will play five more preseason games before the Oct. 30 season opener against the New York Knicks.
Blatt said he was especially happy with how the defense played on Saturday.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time and putting a lot of emphasis in our practices on improving our defense,” he said. “Because we know we are a team that’s going to score, but in order for us to go far we really have to commit to the defense and to be able to do a good job limiting our opponent. And I thought that for the first half we played our best defense that I’ve seen since I came.”
The mistakes came mostly in the last quarter, when the Cavs already didn’t have many starters in the game, allowing the Heat to come back and force overtime.
Tristan Thompson scored 18 points and had nine rebounds in his 25 minutes for the Cavs.
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