The Cleveland Cavaliers entered tonight well-rested and coming off one of their better performances of the season in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers trudged into Cleveland tonight straight off a blood duel with the Brooklyn Nets yesterday. Would Cleveland be Upset City tonight?
In a word? No. Los Angeles jumped out to an eight-point lead after one and, save for a brief spell in the second quarter, spent most of the night building on it. Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, two sentinels who have made a living hunting down and vaporizing opposing guards/wings, pose a particular challenge for Collin Sexton and Darius Garland particularly on defense. The two combined for 60 points, and not only did George make twice as many threes (eight) as the entire Cavaliers team (four), he did it on only one fewer attempt (nine for George, 10 for the Cavs). Getting single-handedly outscored from distance wasn’t a recipe for success in 1891, let alone 2021.
Despite the loss, there were positives to be found. The Cavs absorbed the Clippers’ initial Kawhi Leonard’s hands-sized punch and went on a run to briefly take the lead in the second quarter. That run included an intoxicating 8–0 blitz with highlight plays from Garland, Isaac Okoro, and Jarrett Allen that provided a preview of Cleveland’s hoops future. And while the Clippers’ stars ruled the night, Garland and Collin Sexton held their own with 50 points on 22-of-39 shooting.
Up Next: It doesn’t get any easier as the Cavs square up for two against the Milwaukee Bucks this weekend. Round one tips off Friday at 7:30 p.m.