The Back Story (The Cavaliers lead the season series 1-0):
|1/16/2015||Los Angeles||Cavaliers 126, Clippers 121||Recap||Box|
The Big Picture:
Halfway into their 8 game Grammy Road trip, the Clippers are 2-2 after a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking loss to the Brooklyn Nets where they found themselves up by 8 with 70 seconds left, and still somehow found a way to lose the game. Factor in all the horrendous parts of that game — free throw shooting, losing J.J. Redick for a while until his back is right, Joe Johnson missing two free throws but getting his rebound and hitting a three, Alan Anderson converting a 4-point play, Jarrett Jack's game winner over the outstretched arms of DeAndre Jordan — and you get the Clippers' worst loss since the "Game-That-Must-Not-Be-Named" (Game 5 vs. OKC, for the slow ones out there).
While the typical mantra in the NBA is that having a short memory is a good thing — and no doubt the Clippers would like to forget about their play in Brooklyn — I don't want them to forget and move on. No. Those losses are the ones that are supposed to make you stop and soul-search for a while, and maybe result in a motivational text from Matt Barnes. Those losses are supposed to stick with you and serve as motivation for what type of team you know you are and you know you should be.
I want the Clippers to be angry, be relentless (cue Ballmer), and take their revenge on the Cavs tonight. Since Cleveland dealth the Clippers a tough loss last month, and the rematch is again under the bright lights of national television, they should have all the reason to come out with aggression and intensity tonight. They've already shown against the Spurs that after a bad loss, this team can morph into a terrifying juggernaut.
"Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up." — Thomas Wayne
Remember the last time the Clippers met the Cavaliers? They were drastically underachieving, people were calling for Blatt's head, and LeBron had just showed the slightest signs of being human — and not a futuristic basketball robot forged in a laboratory — by sitting out 2 weeks to rest and heal his aching knees. Well since then, the Cavaliers have not lost, winning their past 11 games in a row, the longest current streak in the NBA after the Hawks loss against the Pelicans. LeBron has looked like his freak MVP self again, and Kyrie has started to play at an All-Star level, even putting up a double nickel against the Blazers single handedly winning them that game.
The in-season trades the Cavs made for Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Shumpert have started to pay dividends. Smith has been lighting it up from three, Shumpert has helped to provide much-needed wing defense on the perimeter, and Mozgov gives them some semblance of rim protection in the paint. Toronto, Washington, and Chicago have struggled as of late, and suddenly the Cavaliers find themselves tied for 4th and only a game out of 3rd (with 2nd in easy striking distance). Yesterday LeBron said he'd be willing to come off the bench to help the team win, so let's hope Blatt takes him seriously.
- Comparison of key metrics. The Cavs are surprisingly one of the slowest teams in the NBA while the Clippers are considered middle-of-the-pack. Look for the Clippers to get out in transition and test the Cavs defense by not letting them get set. The Clippers are the best offense in the league, although J.J. Redick will be out for some time, while the Cavs come in respectively at 6th. Both defenses will be tested, and although over the course of the season the Clippers are better, lately the Cavaliers have really stepped it up.
- Gauntlet. The Clippers are moving into the second half of their road trip, which consists of two back to back games against either playoff opponents, or the Thunder. While many of these games should be considered schedule losses (Seriously, Toronto and Dallas on SEGABABAs?), the Clippers have been surprisingly good on the SEGABABA this season, going 9-3. Let's hope this trend can continue.
- Cavaliers Streaking. The Cavaliers have been extremely impressive over the course of their 11-game win streak, timed not-so-coincidentally with LeBron's return. In each of the past 4 games, and 7 out of the past 11, the Cavs have made 10 or more long balls, with Shumpert shooting 42.1% and Kyrie making a blistering 50.0%. The average MOV over the past 11 wins has been 12.9 points (15.2 at home), with the Cavs holding every team under 100 points, giving up an average of 95.5 points per game. Their team has played exponentially better on both the offensive and defensive end compared to earlier in the season and have built up a lot of confidence. While winning 11 games in a row is always impressive, there is a bit of a similar fools gold shine to this current Cavs streak, much like the Clippers' early win streak. In the past 11 games, the Cavs have only really played 4 quality opponents. I don't think we've seen quite enough to label the Cavaliers fixed by any means.
- Jamal in, J.J. Out. 4 minutes into the game against the Nets, J.J. Redick went out with back spasms, the second time this has occurred on the road trip so far. The Clippers may have possibly brought him back too early, causing this second bout with injury, but now they will be taking all precautions for their sharpshooter to be fully healthy for the playoffs. Unfortunately, Redick's injury comes at the worst time for the Clippers, as they are about to face the toughest stretch of games of their season, and this could likely keep J.J. out of the All-Star 3-point shooting contest. Luckily, shooting guard seems to be the best position for the Clippers to suffer an injury at, as they have a ready-made flamethrower to insert into the starting line up in Jamal Crawford. So far this season, the 5 man lineup of Paul, Crawford, Barnes, Griffin, and Jordan has played the 3rd most minutes of any on the team, and has also posted the best offensive and defensive rating for any lineup over 100 minutes, 121.7 and 100.4 respectively. Though it has played about one fifth of the minutes of the Clippers conventional starting lineup, the starting five that will face the Cavs could arguably be the Clippers' best.
- Bench X-Factors. With Jamal being inserted into the starting lineup, we'll likely see an increase minutes for Austin "Doogie" Rivers, checking in early to allow Crawford to also get some time with the reserves. With the increase in minutes Jamal will see, Doogie becomes the X factor for the bench in his ability to score and instill a defensive mentality. Rivers will be needed in this game to try his best at slowing down Kyrie and JR Smith, and hopefully will continue his terrific 3-game stretch as leader of the newly dubbed Little Rivers Band. For the Cavaliers, Tristan Thompson is a difference maker off the bench and an absolute terror on the offensive glass. Thompson is the league leading reserve when it comes to rebounding, and the Clippers, mainly Hawes, will have to make sure they keep a body on him whenever he is on the court.
- Revisiting the Kevin Love Trade. Now that we're halfway through the season, it seems as good a time as any to revisit this summer's blockbuster Kevin Love trade. Right now, it seems like the Wolves have gotten the better of the trade. While Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young have been unimpressive, Andrew Wiggins looks like a budding star, putting up terrific numbers over the past month, including a 33-point game against the Cavs. Meanwhile, Kevin Love's fit in Cleveland has been awkward, to say the least. At times he doesn't look like he can mesh together with LeBron's point-forward style, and he's often used incorrectly by being relegated to spotting up in the corner. Love put up a season-low 5 points against the 76ers in his last outing. If Love bolts for greener pastures this summer, the Cavs will likely rue the day they paid so much to get him.
- Connections. One of Blake Griffin's most famous dunks came early in his career against Mozgov when he was on the Knicks. Spencer Hawes was on the Cavs for about 30 games last season before leaving in free agency to join the Clippers. Dahntay Jones played with JR Smith for one season on the Nuggets in 2008. Smith also played with CP3 in his rookie year on the Hornets in 2005. Tyronn Lue was an assistant coach for the Clippers last season and is now the associate head coach of the Cavaliers, the highest paid assistant coach in the NBA.
- Wikipedia entry. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a Spaniel so small, that is actually classed as a toy dog by the American Kennel Club. Since 2000, this breed has grown increasingly in popularity in the United States, ranking the 18th most popular pure-breed. Cavalier breed are generally friendly, affectionate, and good with adults and children. They are needy however, requiring a lot of human interaction.