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Cleveland 112 - Clippers 95

Final - 1.30.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Clippers 26 28 19 22 95
Cleveland Cavaliers 26 28 29 29 112

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It's going to be a brief recap tonight. I still have to write the preview for the Wizards tomorrow, and I'm battling a cold.

I have not yet really watched this game. I heard some of on the radio, saw some of the second half, and have not yet gone back to watch on the DVR. If I do, I think I'll fast forward over the first six minutes during which the Clippers fell behind 20-4. The Cavs 11-0 start was partcularly brutal - 2 and a half minutes in, the Clippers had more turnovers (2) than shot attempts (1), and zero rebounds. The Cavs had 3 offensive rebounds.

But when LeBron James picked up his second foul and went to the bench, the game changed. The Clippers closed the first quarter with a 22-6 run of their own led by the hot-shooting Eric Gordon to inexplicably tie the game at 26 after one.

In the second quarter Gordon stayed hot and Steve Novak joined him, bouncing back from his frigid shooting against Chicago Wednesday. The Clippers first 5 scores of the second quarter each counted for three points - tries by Gordon and Ricky Davis, a pair by Novak, and an old-fashioned and-one from Baron Davis. Midway through the period, the Clippers had a 45-38 lead, the largest of the game. For the 12 minutes of basketball from the midpoint of the first period to the midpoint of the second, the Clippers had outscored the Cavs - one of the best teams in basketball, with a perfect 21-0 home record and trying to set a team record for consecutive home victories - by 23, 41 to 18. Which was fun. The game was tied at halftime, 54-54.

Interestingly, although I was certain that it couldn't last, I did not foresee the irony of how it would end. The Clippers had gotten back in the game and even taken the lead with red hot three point shooting. They made 8 first half triples, and 6 in the second quarter alone. There's no way a team could possibly be that hot from deep in the second half, right? Wrong. The Clippers cooled off alright - and the Cavs het up The Cavs made 9 second half threes, and in one stretch five of their field goals consecutively were from behind the arc. And it's not like Cleveland was cold from deep in the first half. For the game, the Cavs made 14 of 26 threes - both a very large number of triples, and a ridiculously good percentage of 54%. It makes a difference too - 9 of 26 would be a fairly normal night from deep. They made 5 more than that - that's 15 points in a 17 point game. That's your difference right there.

In the end, the shooting, and the rebounding, and big games from LeBron and Z and Pavlovic and Williams meant another loss for the Clippers. It's what we expected - the Cavs had to work a little harder than we thought they might, and they had to play very well.

A few more observations:

  • Novak finished the game with career highs in minutes played (35), field goal attempts (15), field goals (7) and three point attempts (10), and he tied his career high in threes made (5). He even got the second half start. Why did he get so many minutes? Well, beyond the obvious fact that he was scoring well, the matchup against Ben Wallace was perfect for him. Wallace is arguably the worst offensive player in the NBA, so Novak could guard him and only give up rebounding. On the other end, despite Wallace's DPOY resume, he doesn't want to chase Steve Novak off the three point line.
  • Baron Davis continues to shoot poorly. He was 4 for 13 in this game, after going 1 for 10 in his first game back. But he did manage to have an impact on this game in other ways. Still limited in his return from injury, Baron played only 23 minutes tonight. During that time, he collected 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 9 points and also had 3 steals. That's a potential triple double line with unrestricted minutes. Of course, he missed every single jump shot he took, which is a problem, and also had 4 turnovers. But there were some encouraging signs in Baron's game tonight.
  • Eric Gordon had just an outstanding game with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals to go along with his game high 27 points which included 5 three points. I wonder if David Thorpe and John Hollinger were watching.
  • If Marcus Camby and Steve Novak are going to be taking minutes away from either Brian Skinner or DeAndre Jordan, I know which one I'd rather see on the bench. This game may be a special case - Ilgauskus is a handful and has always killed the Clippers (why couldn't he have just taken another day off, rather than torching LA for 20 points on 10 for 16 shooting?) - but 29 minutes for Skinner and 5 minutes for DJ is a mistake. One of those two guys figures (hopefully prominently) in the long term plans, and he doesn't have a two-tone King Tut beard.

The good news is that one is behind us and in the books. This was after all, one of only three teams with fewer than 10 losses on the season. Tomorrow in Washington LA plays the only team left with fewer than 10 wins - a decidedly more winnable game. And Zach Randolph may be back for the game after that. So there are hopefully winnable games on the immediate horizon.