The LA Clippers held on for a 2-point win against the Cleveland Cavaliers, as Jordan Clarkson’s potential game-winning three-pointer rimmed out. The Cavaliers appeared to have designed a play for Kevin Love, who totaled 22 points on the night and easily scored on the previous possession, but Sindarius Thornwell effectively denied him the ball, forcing Clarkson to take an errant jumper over the outstretched arms of Danilo Gallinari.
The 110-108 win puts the Clippers at 43-30, currently in a two-way tie with Oklahoma City for fifth place in the Western Conference. It wasn’t the strong start LA would have hoped for on its four-game road trip, but a win is a win, especially in an opposing arena.
Gallinari led the way for the Clippers with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting. At times in the first half, it seemed like the forward was LA’s only reliable source of offense. The rest of the team started off sluggishly, and the Clippers were down by 15 at the end of the first quarter. They settled for jumpers, and failed to provide any sort of defensive resistance on the other end of the floor.
Cleveland put up 40 points in the opening period, including nine from Collin Sexton, eight from Clarkson, and seven from Cedi Osman. Meanwhile, even LA’s normally energetic bench unit failed to get the offense going.
The second quarter got off to a better start, as the Clippers got into the paint for six quick points to cut the lead to single digits. The bench didn’t make much more of a dent, but once Gallinari got back into the game, the team was able to get into a better flow with him and Lou Williams a co-offensive threats. Williams finished the game with 15 points and 6 assists, and Montrezl Harrell added 14.
The Clippers took the lead with a dominant third quarter. Gallinari once again was excellent on offense, pouring in eight points in the period. LA had to continue to attack the basket because of a poor shooting night from beyond the arc. The Clippers finished 6-of-26 from three-point range, and all of the makes came from the starters.
The fourth quarter saw another bench run from the Cavaliers second unit, led by Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. Ultimately, LA was able to make just enough plays, and just enough free throws, down the stretch to escape with a victory.
The game was billed as the first NBA showdown between former SEC rivals and 2019 lottery picks Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Collin Sexton. Both players got the primary defensive assignment on one another, and though Sexton scored 20 points to SGA’s 16, the Cavalier had only one assist compared to five for Shai. More importantly, Sexton finished the game minus-11 (the worst differential on Cleveland) while Gilgeous-Alexander was a plus-4.
As Andrew Greif of the LA Times pointed out earlier today, this was one of three games for the Rivers family today. Spencer Rivers got the win for UC Irvine in the NCAA Tournament against Kansas State, Austin Rivers got the win for Houston against San Antonio (which helps the Clippers out quite a bit), and Doc got the nerviest win of the bunch in Cleveland.
On to New York.