Love, Thompson lead Cavs to first win with 110-99 win over Pacers
BY STONE ELXINGTON
CAVS BEAT WRITER
(CLEVELAND, OH) - In the NBA, home openers are supposed to be a joyous occasion for the hosting team. In their 50th home opener in franchise history on Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers, the Cleveland Cavaliers sent fans home with smiles on their faces.
Led by outstanding performances from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, the Cavs held on for a 110-99 victory over the Pacers in Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
“We worked hard,” Cavs head coach John Beilein said. “It’s been a long summer and September to get to that first win for these guys and our coaching staff.”
Trailing 28-26 at the end of the first quarter, Cleveland exploded in the second quarter and never looked back. After Kevin Porter Jr. opened the quarter with an alley-oop dunk and Larry Nance followed the bucket with a three-pointer, the Cavs secured a 31-28 lead. Cleveland never trailed from that point forward. By halftime, the Cavs lead had expanded to a 65-48 advantage, thanks in large part to the Thompson-Love duo.
“Kevin and Tristan in particular were outstanding in how they took on the good lead and then hanging on to it and making big plays,” Beilein said.
Love and Thompson combined for 34 points and 13 rebounds in the first half, completely out-muscling the Pacers front court. The onslaught continued into the second half, as Cleveland entered the fourth quarter leading 90-74.
As the Pacers attempted to make a late fourth quarter run, narrowing the Cavs’ lead to a 106-99 advantage with a little more than a minute to play, Thompson came up big once again, sinking a turnaround hook shot with 54 seconds remaining that sank the Pacers.
Thompson led the Cavs with 25 points and 13 rebounds, his second double-double in two games this season. The Cavs center averaged a double-double for the first time in his career last season (10.9 points, 10.2 rebounds) and is expected to be a leader for the abundance of youthful Cavaliers.
Rookie point guard Darius Garland (12 points, four assists) and second-year shooting guard Collin Sexton (18 points, five rebounds, three assists) are two key members of the Cavaliers’ future and are receiving valuable playing time very early in their careers.
“I think that he has a very high IQ for the game, that’s the No. 1 thing that sticks out to me,” Beilein said of Garland. “He has a passion for the game as well, he has natural gifts.”
With Garland and Sexton both listed at 6-foot-1, the natural concern is for when they have to match up against bigger backcourts, which may happen most nights in the NBA. Sexton, who ran the point for Cleveland last season, is also learning a new position at shooting guard.
“We’re finding out everyday,” Beilein said about starting the duo in the Cavaliers backcourt. “There’s challenges with any combination we put together right now, because Collin’s used to playing with the ball all the time….I think that’s the biggest challenge, for Collin to play a new position.”
Against Indiana, Love finished one assist shy of his fourth career triple-double, totaling 21 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
The win was a great rebound for the Cavs, who lost their opening game of the season in Orlando against the Magic. They’ll go for their second straight win on Monday when they travel to Milwaukee to play the Bucks at 8:00 p.m.
POSTED 10/26/2019 23:31