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Pistons vs. Cavs Game 1 analysis: Detroit had no answers for Kevin Love at center

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Cleveland was able to close out the game once they went small. Detroit needs to find an answer, or it will be a short series.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing scared me more coming into Detroit's playoff matchup with Cleveland than Kevin Love playing center. Cleveland didn't feature Love at the five-spot much during the regular season. When Cleveland went to it in the fourth quarter of Game 1, Love picked the Pistons apart and helped seal Cleveland's 106-101 victory.

There is no easy answer for Stan Van Gundy. If Detroit puts Andre Drummond on Love, they force their best rebounder out to the three-point line or give Love easy, open looks from the perimeter. Worse, because Drummond's post game is, frankly, not dangerous enough, it's hard for Detroit to take advantage of the size mismatch. Love is also an effective rebounder, so it's hard for Detroit to win the battle on the boards.

Detroit's other big-man option would be Aron Baynes, which, just, no. I don't even want to think about it. The Pistons could go small on small, but even their power forwards are more power forwards in name only -- both Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris are much more effective defensively at the small forward position and having them slide all the way to center just isn't feasible.

Detroit could leave Drummond on the floor and stick him on a less dangerous player (Iman Shumpert, perhaps), but that exacerbates issues handling the pick and roll. It also means that Love will be able to feast on a small defender in the post, something he did effectively all game.

Love hit two of four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and Detroit's reluctance to leave him opened up the lane for the Cavs throughout the fourth. Cleveland was able to outrebound Detroit 13 to 6 in the final quarter.

What is the solution?

If the solution isn't Drummond, Baynes, Harris or Morris, there is really only one person for Detroit to turn to. Van Gundy will have to consider dusting off Anthony Tolliver, who received a DNP-CD in Game 1. Tolliver isn't a great defender, but he is active and has the size to make Love work hard for quality looks. He has more size than Harris and Morris, and more lateral quickness than Drummond.

The Pistons showed they belonged on the same floor as Cleveland in Game 1, and if Van Gundy can find a solution for Love they could make it a real series. If not, well, you know how that game ends.