With 44 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Corey Maggette made two free throws to cut the Clippers' deficit to 4. They proceeded to give up 6 points closing the period in the ugliest of fashions; an and-one on some truly terrible Tim Thomas defense followed by three Damon Jones free throws when QRoss fouled him shooting a three with 1 second left in the quarter. The Cavs then opened the fourth quarter with a 17-7 run, the lead stretched to 20, the game was over and the Staples crowd streamed out into the LA night.
Over a period of 8.5 minutes, the Clippers were outscored 23-7. And here's how many points LeBron James scored during that run: 2. The Clippers simply didn't show up for the fourth quarter, and they allowed the Cavs (the other Cavs) to run away with the game.
I said the Clippers didn't show up for the fourth quarter. The truth of the matter is, other than Chris Kaman (season high 20) and Corey Maggette (game high 22), the Clippers didn't really show up for the game. The box score says that Elton Brand had 16 points and 10 boards, but his 6 for 14 shooting included 3 for 11 on jumpers. Cat Mobley (2 for 10), Sam Cassell (4 for 11), Shaun Livingston (an unagressive 2 for 4), Tim Thomas (1 for 3 and 3 turnovers in 15 minutes) and Q (0 points and 4 fouls in 4 minutes) were all somewhere between invisible and detrimental.
And here's an amazing statistic: the Clippers held a slight 22-20 edge on points in the paint in the first half. In the second half, they were outscored 30-6 in the paint. The last 2 buckets the Cavs scored to build their 20 point lead both game off of offensive rebounds, one of those on a missed free throw. If you're down by 16 in the fourth quarter and you force the team to miss, you really have to get the rebound. There's just no excuse for that.
What a strange situation to lay an egg. Coming off a huge win, playing at home for the first time in 2 weeks, playing before a true, packed to the rafters every seat filled sell out. They even got off to a good start, with Kaman carrying them to a 12-4 lead scoring 8 points on a series of nifty moves. And then nothing.
I thought Ralph put it well. We keep thinking the team is back on track, only to be disappointed almost immediately. Solid wins against Orlando and Miami in early December were followed by losses in seven of the next eight. Three straight home wins closing out the year, followed by a give-away in Orlando, and then a couple of days later a disaster of a game in Atlanta. Two straight wins to close the trip, followed by this dud. Uggh.
It's time to start Corey. Bench Mobley or Livingston or even Cassell (Sam would still have to get a lot of minutes), but Corey has to be in there. Because he can get to the line, he is the only Clipper other than Brand who produces consistently. Cat Mobley is now 18 for his last 65 (27.7%) since New Year's Eve, and yet he played 38 minutes tonight. I know he was guarding LeBron, but Corey did fine when he was on him.