Kevin Love, since February 14 knee surgery, started Thursday as a knight

CLEVELAND — Kevin Love will make an earlier-than-expected return to the Cavaliers.

The All-Star forward will start Thursday night against the Utah Jazz, with the team making the announcement a day after general manager David Griffin had said Love likely would be back on the Cavs’ upcoming four-game road trip.

On Feb. 14, Love underwent arthroscopic surgery to have a loose body removed from his left knee. He was expected to miss six weeks.

“The medical staff just said he was great,” coach Tyronn Lue said Thursday of Love’s quick recovery. “He felt great after the few practices that we had and the couple 3-on-3s that they had. So they said he was ready to go tonight, and that’s a good sign for us, and hopefully he’ll continue to stay this way, stay healthy.”

Love will be on an undisclosed minutes restriction, according to Lue. He also likely will be held out of both ends of back-to-backs for the time being, the coach said.

Cleveland plays the Clippers on Saturday and the Lakers on Sunday.

Cleveland went just 7-6 in the 13 games Love missed. Lue said his contributions — 20 points, 11.1 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game — will be welcome. And not just the stats, but the manner by which Love goes about getting them.

“Well, his defensive rebounding for one,” Lue said of what Love will bring to the Cavs, who were outrebounded 12.0 to 7.2 offensively per game while he was sidelined. “The second thing is, just when we get those leads and we’re getting jump-shot happy, we’re able to throw the ball into the post and slow the game down. Either he’s going to score or get to the free throw line. That’s what was good for us before.

“When LeBron [James] goes out of the game, him and Kyrie [Irving] are kind of working that two-man game. That’s what we missed the most, just slowing the game down, posting the basketball and either him scoring or getting to the free throw line.”

Kyle Korver, meanwhile, will miss his fifth straight game Thursday due to a sore left foot. Lue said the veteran shooter is expected back on the court early in the upcoming road trip, which begins Saturday in L.A.

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