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Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love.
Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love. Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Accurate or not, the comparisons inevitably crop up whenever Kevin Love and Jared Sullinger cross paths.

Sullinger’s used to them.

They came last season both times the Celtics faced the Timberwolves and they’ll come Friday night when the Celtics face Love and the new-look Cavaliers.

Last January, when Love came to the Garden with the Wolves, Celtics coach Brad Stevens gushed at the way Love had morphed his body, and honed his abilities both in the post and on the perimeter, manufacturing double-doubles on a nightly basis.

Sullinger had a lot of the same talents, Stevens said, even though some of them hadn’t been fully tapped.


“Studying Love would be a good place to start,” Stevens said at the time.

As good as it sounded, Sullinger admitted playing like Love would mean stretching out of his comfort zone. Even though he could shoot the 3-pointer, in the paint Sullinger played with a combination of skill and agility that turned post play into performance art.

“That’s where I’m at my best,” Sullinger said last season. “But if I have to step out, I will be able to work on that this summer. I just do what I do best, that’s what got me here. Why change?”

In the 10 months since, Sullinger’s started to take on the transformation. With the green light from Stevens, he stretched his game out in the preseason, taking 3.75 3s a night and shooting 50 percent.

He was confident, but still cautious about it all coming into the season.

“Hopefully, that’s not just preseason bluff,” Sullinger said in October. “Hopefully it carries over to the regular season.’’

Sullinger hasn’t been shy at all about shooting from deep so far this season – he’s taken 18 through the Celtics seven games -- but he hasn’t gotten the same results.


He knocked down the first trey he took this season, a wide-open look from the wing in the season opener against the Nets that looked pure when it split the rim – but he’s only made one since.

Seeing Sullinger air it out still catches some people off guard.

When he took a deep 3 against the Rockets in the second game of the season, Rockets play-by-play man Bill Worrell was puzzled.

“When did he start shooting that?” Worrell asked.

Meanwhile, Love’s coming off his best shooting night of the season, going 7 of 13 against the Pelicans on Monday with six 3s.

For the season, Love’s shooting 41 percent from deep.

“He’s shooting the 3-ball way better than me right now,” Sullinger said.

As flattering as the comparisons might be, the numbers so far suggest that Love and Sullinger thrive different ways.

Sullinger still makes his money in the paint, taking twice as many shots as Love from five feet and in (40 to 21) and his shooting is more accurate (67.5 percent to 42.9)

Almost half of the shots Love’s taken this season have been 3s. The Cavs are relentless about running pick-and-pops that get Love into his sweet spot on the left wing.

For all the things they might have in common, they’ve played differently and they’ve been utilized differently so far this season. For Sullinger, expanding his game to mirror Love is still a work in progress.

“Rebound, score off the dribble, score in the post, outside, inside, yeah there’s some similarities,” Sullinger said. “But at the same time, he’s an all-star and he’s an all-star for a reason.


“I haven’t done that yet. So he’s looking down on me.”

Cavaliers at a glance

■  When, where: Friday, 7:30 p.m., at TD Garden.

■  TV, radio: CSN, WBZ-FM (98.5).

■  Scoring: LeBron James 24.8, Kyrie Irving 22.0, Kevin Love 18.7.

■  Rebounds: Love 10.2, James 6.8, Tristan Thompson 6.5.

■  Assists: James 6.7, Irving 5.0, Matthew Dellavedova 2.3.

■  Head to head: This is the first of four meetings; the Celtics went 3-0 against Cleveland last season.

■  Miscellany: The Cavs have been off since Monday, when James and Irving had 32 points each in a win over New Orleans . . . James has averaged more points against the Celtics — 30.1 — than he has against any other opponent . . . Dellavedova is out with a sprained knee . . . Guard Dion Waiters is questionable with a back injury.

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.