The Cleveland Cavaliers completed a two-game season sweep of the Los Angeles Clippers in dominant fashion Sunday afternoon at STAPLES Center. Led by 27 points, six rebounds and five assists from LeBron James, the Cavs overwhelmed LAC over the better part of the game's final 40 minutes.
The Clippers jumped out to an early 14-4 lead on the shoulders of a hot-shooting J.J. Redick. "Hot-shooting J.J. Redick" is redundant, I know. Redick scored nine of LAC's first 14 as the Cavaliers were looking sluggish on both ends. After that, though, L.A.'s offense came screeching to a halt. They scored just two points over the period's final five minutes as LeBron James scored six in a row to carry the Cavaliers to a 21-19 lead after 12 minutes.
Rumored Clipper trade target Channing Frye gave Cleveland instant offense off the bench as he drilled each of his first three attempts from deep. Since starting the game 7-for-14 from the floor, the Clips hit just one of their next 12 shots as the Cavs began to dominate the offensive boards. Led by Tristan Thompson, the Cavaliers gathered three offensive rebounds in the first few minutes of the second that led to eight second-chance points. Meanwhile, L.A.'s second unit wasn't able to generate any offense going toward the rim with most shots coming from the perimeter.
With his team suddenly down 11, Doc Rivers came back with Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan ahead of the eight-minute mark. LAC was sorely in need of some help on the glass and somebody to actually generate some passable offense. They scored a quick 13 points once CP3 returned to the game, but unfortunately the Clips weren't able to get many stops on the other end.
A three-point play (thanks to a Doc technical), a J.R. Smith triple and a fastbreak layup from James boosted Cleveland's lead to 17 at the break. Once Timofey Mozgov sat down with 5:18 left in the first, the Cavs went on a 49-24 run to close out the half. LeBron and Kevin Love led the way, combining to score 28 points with 11 boards.
The Clips mounted a mini surge offensively to start the second half, only to have it quickly thrown back in their face by consecutive threes by James and Smith. Every time the Clippers scored it seemed like the Cavs were able to cancel it out immediately by scoring on the other end. J.R. canned another longball from the corner that pushed Cleveland's advantage back up to 17 at 71-54 heading into an official's timeout midway through the period.
The quality of looks (Smith's shots notwithstanding) were notably better for Cleveland than they were for Los Angeles. Chris Paul and J.J. Redick were trying to keep the offense afloat but weren't able to get a whole lot of help. At this point Luc Mbah a Moute and Jeff Green had combined for four points on putrid 2-for-14 shooting from the floor. Things get ugly when Green is missing just about everything he's throwing up there.
LAC seemed to find their rhythm on both ends a bit late in the period as the defensive intensity took a notable leap forward. Three FTs from Redick cut the deficit to just 12 at 71-59. Unfortunately, Smith was on an absolute tear. He drilled another pair of threes - giving him 14 points in this quarter alone - to put Cleveland back up by 19. Frye, Matthew Dellavedova and LeBron then hit back-to-back-toback threes which made Cleveland 14-for-27 from beyond-the-arc in the game, extending the gap to 25. In the third quarter alone, the Cavs drilled 8-of-11 three-balls.
After 36 minutes the Clippers were down 91-68.
Kyrie Irving was the lone starter for either club on the floor to start the fourth and he effectively put the game on ice by himself. He scored seven straight points, capped by a long pull-up three a few feet behind the line to give the Cavs a 103-77 advantage. There's really no reason to elaborate further.
The Clippers looked ready to play to start this game but it didn't take long for the Cavaliers to establish their dominance. They aren't a good matchup for LAC, especially without Blake Griffin available. This was an atrocious game from the Clippers' contingent of forwards, with Green, Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson combining to shoot just 7-for-22 for 21 points. LeBron scored 27 by himself on tidy 9-of-15 shooting from the floor.
The true difference in the game was the Cavs' blistering shooting from the outside. Whenever you allow your opponent to shoot 18-for-37 from deep (48.7%), you're going to have a tough time winning. The Clippers got next to nothing from anyone offensive outside of Paul, Redick and DeAndre Jordan, who combined to score 47 of the Clips' 90 points.
Cleveland, meanwhile, got a combined 32 points on 10-for-15 shooting from deep from the likes of J.R. Smith and Channing Frye. The Cavs, as expected, dominated the Clippers on the boards (49 to 34) and Tristan Thompson contributed a 10-point, 11-rebound double-double off the bench. It just wasn't the Clippers' day.
From here, LAC (42-23) ventures out on a five-game road trip that starts Tuesday night in San Antonio.