The Cavaliers have not been a particularly good team this season, but are dangerous due to the quality of players on their roster, especially on the offensive end. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James played spectacularly tonight, resulting in a Clippers loss at home.
The first quarter basically set the tone for the entire evening. The pace was up tempo, and the baskets were coming quickly and easily for both sides. This seemed to favor the Clippers since they were quite a bit higher in pace than the Cavaliers coming into the game. While JR Smith made several tough shots, DeAndre Jordan was dominating the glass and Matt Barnes was scoring well in transition. The starters stayed in for a long time, and were effective, especially on offense. Jamal hit a quick 3 as soon as he came in, and was running the offense even though Austin Rivers was the nominal point guard.
Rivers missed three straight shots at one point, while during the same duration the Cavaliers hit three 3 pointers. LeBron James led the assualt, making spectacular passes off the break throughout the night. The Clippers offense stalled with the 2nd unit, especially since Jamal was cold tonight. Tristan Thompson grabbed several offensive rebounds in the 2nd quarter, leading to second chance opportunities for the Cavaliers. The Clippers had some sloppy passes and devolved a little bit into one on one basketball, but were able to keep up with the Cavs through their transition offense masterfully wielded by Chris Paul. Barnes played extremely well in the 1st half, both making open jumpers and converting on the break. Redick made several open jumpers as well, fed primarily by Paul. The Clippers were up at halftime 64-61, but it was obvious their defense would need to be improved on in the second half.
Unfortunately, the Clippers were unable to contain LeBron or Kyrie in the second half either. The up tempo game continued, with Blake almost re-posterizing Timofey Mozgov and Chris Paul pushing the ball up quickly after both made and missed baskets. Paul continually found other Clippers in transition attacking the basket and spotting up along the three point line. Blake and DJ collected offensive rebounds, but Matt Barnes cooled off after draining a couple of three pointers in the first half. Blake was also super aggressive, taking several rebounds all the way up the floor and finishing at the hoop. Coach David Blatt of the Cavs countered by starting the hack-a-DJ at roughly halfway through the 3rd quarter, slowing the game down considerably. DJ sat down at the four minute mark, but this didn't help, as the Clippers defense continually failed at slowing down the Cavs' offense.
The bench was a failure throughout the evening, with Jamal shooting 3-12 and Austin Rivers going 0-4 in his Clippers debut. Kyrie continued to sizzle, draining a couple of three pointers even in the face of strong defense by Austin and Chris. The starters were able to convert more regularly on offense, but were equally unable to slow the Cavaliers on the other end. The Cavaliers moved ahead early in the fourth quarter and were able to stay a little bit in front of the Clippers for the rest of the game, with neither team able to get consistent stops. The pace also slowed down in the fourth quarter due to the frequent fouls calls and timeouts, and the Clippers' easy baskets from earlier int he game eluded them. The pivotal moment occurred with 48 seconds left: the Cavaliers were inbounding the ball, and were able to get in and-one with Tristan Thompson off a great pass by LeBron. The Clippers fell behind by seven, which was too much of a deficit to overcome, and the game was over.
Some Interesting Thoughts About the Game
Austin Rivers was largely ineffective on offense, bricking a couple of three points and unable to finish at the basket in his other two attempts. Nonetheless, he provided some energy and his defense was not horrible given the circumstances. While his debut went about as badly as could be feared, I think there should still be some hope that he can turn into somewhat of a spark off the bench. Dahntay Jones played inspired if ultimately ineffectual defense on LeBron James, and was extremely enthusiastic off the bench the entire evening. As long as he provides that, he is worth his minimum deal.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were deadly tonight, and no Clippers' defenders were able to hold them in check for any stretch of the evening. A good deal of their shots were contested but went down anyways: they are great players, and tonight they came through for their team. While the Clippers probably should have won this game, with the way Kyrie and LeBron were playing, a loss is at least understandable. When players of their caliber go off, it is not surprising that their team wins the game.
Good signs: While the defense and bench were severely lacking tonight, there were a lot of positive things to take away from this game. For one thing, Chris Paul was a spectacular playmaker in both the halfcourt and transition, making incredible passes time and again. His shot was not on point tonight, but I am not sure any other point guard could have done some of the things he was able to do in this game. Blake Griffin had some lulls but showed some sparks of aggression attacking the basket in transition, and completed several spectacular plays both on the break and in the halfcourt. DeAndre Jordan may have contributed to the Clippers collapse with the hack-a-DJ effect in the third quarter, but he was extremely active on the offensive boards and contributed strongly throughout the evening.
Hopefully Austin Rivers and Dahntay Jones will be able to acclimate themselves to this Clippers bench, because it needs all the help it can get right now. When Jamal can't score, the bench is completely ineffective, and for a contending team that is unacceptable. Austin Rivers has been a bust so far in his brief NBA career, but he can get to the hoop, and with a little bit of work and coaching could provide a very nice supplement to the Jamal show.
Tonight was a tough loss, but the Clippers fought hard and many of their key players performed well. It was just a rough night against two of the top offensive players in the league as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving willed the Cavaliers to victory.