After a three-game road trip where the Cleveland Cavaliers mostly saw losing, the team returned home to host the Los Angeles Clippers looking to change their fortunes. Even though it was a bit of an up and down affair throughout, the Cavaliers were able to grind it out in the end - winning 120-111.
With this win, Cleveland was able to maintain distance from the Toronto Raptors as well as the play-in tournament - staying 1.5 games ahead of both. The Cavaliers are also 1.5 games behind the red-hot Boston Celtics for fifth-place in the Eastern Conference and 2.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for fourth-place. Granted, none of these aforementioned teams played tonight but it is a situation worth monitoring until Cleveland takes a similar route to tonight’s opponent.
On Sunday, Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said he’s going to start resting his players down the stretch due to them more or less being locked into their spot. It’s fair to wonder if the Cavaliers will do the same with home court in the first round in doubt. But, for now, it feels like Cleveland will scrap down to the bitter end because they still have a chance in the fight, no matter how slim.
If Cleveland wants to run it out down the stretch, they’re going to have to keep asking their young stars to continue growing up in real-time. If they’re able to get what they got from Evan Mobley, the youngest of the bunch, tonight, then they should be in great hands going forward. Mobley finished the night with 30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steal and 1 block. Joining Mobley was Darius Garland, who had 24 points, 13 assists and 3 turnovers as well as Isaac Okoro, who had 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 block.
Caris LeVert made his return to Cleveland’s lineup after a nine-game absence, chipping in 11 points, 7 rebounds and 2 assists off the bench. Helping LeVert was Kevin Love, the only other bench player that scored in this tightly contested victory. Love had 13 points, 3 three-pointers and 9 rebounds.
For the Clippers, head coach Tyronn Lue got a standing ovation from the home crowd, thanking him for his time in Cleveland. Speaking of Lue, he said prior to tonight’s game that Bickerstaff should be a serious candidate for Coach of the Year at season’s end. But he shouldn’t be so modest - Lue has squeezed every ounce of blood from this stone of a Clippers roster. Down Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the young depth Los Angeles has assembled has shined through Lue’s guidance and coaching. Tonight’s notable standout was Amir Coffey - who torched the Cavs from the perimeter. It might feel premature, but, when this Clippers team is fully healthy they could be a virtual lock to win the championship.
This was an ugly win for Cleveland but that seems to happen more often than not whenever they win lately. Whatever. A win’s a win and the Cavaliers are still in the thick of things as Cleveland inches towards the end of the regular season. That’s all that matters at the end of the day.
Up next: The Cavs are off until Wednesday night where they host James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers. They’re in Chicago to take on the Bulls immediately after. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. ET.