That was FUN.
The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 105-94 tonight, riding a 65-point first half to an absolute thrashing of a 33-17 Clippers team. It was a complete team performance like few we've seen this year from this Cavs team, and the Cavs have yet another signature win on this absurd 12-game win streak. If this win was a play from tonight's first half, it would be this, with the rest of the NBA in the role of Jamal Crawford:
The Cavs had this one in the bag from the beginning. Kevin Love got hot early, making his first four baskets as the Cavs surged to a 22-13 lead. They held the Clippers to 9-23 shooting in the first quarter, and besides Blake Griffin, no one on the Clippers could generate a basket early. Love cooked, LeBron was Point LeBron, and there was even a fun moment of TRANSITION MOZGOV:
Golly, Timofey Mozgov looked like a runaway polar bear. In a good way, of course.
The second quarter was where the real magic happened, though. The Clippers' offense fell apart, as they resorted to just continual Griffin and DeAndre Jordan post-ups and Chris Paul ISOs that the Cavs squashed quickly and repeatedly. The Clippers also had a ton of turnovers, and that led to some fun play. The above LeBron dunk. A Love slam in transition. Even a couple nice J.R. Smith threes. A 15-4 run capped off by the LeBron dunk made it 65-42 at halftime, and the game was basically over at that point.
However, we did have a couple of notable fun moments in the second half, mostly centered around officiating. The Clippers received four technical foul calls in the third, as they got frustrated and began to get very chippy with the Cavs as the game went on. Chris Paul got one for chirping at referee Lauren Holtkamp, while DeAndre Jordan got one minutes later for clamoring for a foul call. Then Matt Barnes, who had already been T'd up in the quarter, looked like he tried to instigate a fight with Ken Mauer, and was ejected. The other fun note happened at the four-minute mark in the third, as Kyrie Irving hit his first shot of the game - putting the Cavs up 87-57.
The Cavs obliterated the Clips tonight, plain and simple.
- Mozgov and Love owned the paint tonight offensively. The Clippers have a pretty intimidating frontcourt trio with Griffin, Jordan, and Spencer Hawes (STEVE!), but the Cavs abused them down low. Mozgov and Love, and to a lesser extent Tristan Thompson, were consistently able to seal off the Clippers' posts and get good position, not just to score, but to allow for the backcourt guys to get open drives to the rim. The Cavs went to the post a lot tonight, and it was because it consistently worked. The big guys worked their butts off, and were rewarded.
- Love finished with 24 points, nine rebounds, and three assists to lead the Cavs in scoring. They seemed like they made a point to get and keep him involved tonight, and Love responded by performing really well offensively and being quite active on the boards. This was doubly impressive because he was checking Griffin for a good chunk of the night, and did a solid job, contributing to Blake scoring just 16 points on 17 shots.
- The perimeter defense was also great tonight. The Clippers hit just 5-22 three-pointers, and without J.J. Redick, couldn't find consistent looks from outside. The Cavs sat back and packed the paint against Griffin and Jordan, and were comfortable leaving LeBron and Iman Shumpert on an island against Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes. It also helped that J.R. Smith was quite active in the passing lanes, picking five steals, mostly off broken down Chris Paul pick-and-rolls. They dared L.A. to beat them from three, and that didn't go well.
- LeBron had a couple monster dunks, 23 points on 8-14 shooting, three rebounds, and nine assists tonight. Ho hum.
- Irving found plenty of other ways to get involved tonight with his shot not falling, contributing spacing by moving well off the ball and distributing well. He also hit every technical free throw he took, which doesn't seem impressive until you consider the volume of those shots. He finished with just 10 points, but was still solid.
- Chris Paul had a rough tonight, finishing with just 10 points on 14 shots, hitting just one of four free throw attempts, and struggling to keep the Clips' offense going. He was good defensively, as Kyrie's above line shows, but that was about it as the the Clippers' offense died tonight with him. Meanwhile, Barnes was atrocious even before getting ejected, Jordan and Griffin kept getting walled off from the interior on both ends, and Austin Rivers picked up five fouls for his troubles. It may have been the end of the Grammys road trip for them, and they looked exhausted, but still the Cavs' defense should not have the effect on their offense that it did tonight. Not a confidence-inspiring game for them going forward.
Cleveland travels to take on the Indiana Pacers tomorrow night and the Cavs should be well rested, as majority of the normal rotation didn't play in the fourth quarter.