CLEVELAND (Ohio) • Kevin Love is playing far better defence this National Basketball Association season than his reputation would indicate.
His two crucial fourth-quarter steals and blocked shot on Tuesday only support that.
Love scored 24 points to go with his defensive work and Kyrie Irving scored 32 points to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 128-120 victory against the Houston Rockets.
LeBron James added 19 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists on a night when the Cavs shot 87 per cent in the fourth quarter (13 of 15). For the first time since 2000-01, Cleveland are off to a 4-0 start.
"I thought the floor spacing was great," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "We were able to get downhill on a lot of pick-and-rolls and throw it back to (Love). And LeBron and Kyrie did a great job of getting downhill in that fourth quarter."
James Harden had a season-high 41 points and added 15 assists and seven rebounds for the Rockets (2-2), who made 17 three-pointers in a losing effort.
The Rockets had won their past four meetings at Quicken Loans Arena.
Iman Shumpert's three-pointer put the Cavs ahead 99-95. Love then picked the ball from centre Clint Capela on the Rockets' ensuing possession, leading to a three-pointer in transition by Mike Dunleavy.
When Love picked off a pass by Harden on Houston's next possession and then converted at the other end with three free throws, the Cavs had their biggest lead of the night.
Love has six steals through four games by playing the passing lanes. His total ranks second on the team behind Shumpert's eight.
"I don't know what the stats say, but I'd bet you that statistically I'm not a bad defender, so to speak," Love said. "I think I read defences relatively well.
"Obviously there are guys in this league that dominate the ball, like a Kyrie Irving or a Bron that just beats you to the lane. It's just very hard to play against them... It's just something I continue to try to get better at."