The Clippers defeated the Cavaliers 132-108 Saturday afternoon at Staples Center. LA was without its second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari, but benefited from the absence of Kevin Love on the other end. Although Cleveland put up a spirited effort, the Clippers were too deep and too talented in a comfortable victory.
The Clippers got off to a fast start, despite the absence of Gallinari from the starting lineup, building an 18-11 lead. The team was running hard off of misses and getting offense in transition, typified by a Patrick Beverley bounce pass from half-court to the rim-running Ivica Zubac.
JaMychal Green was active in his starting role, cleaning up the offensive glass for two putback dunks and flashing to the paint for some easy feeds from Beverley. The energy of the game changed when the benches entered the game, oddly in the Cavaliers’ favor. Jordan Clarkson looked awfully comfortable in his former home, going for seven points in the first quarter. Neither bench was able to stop the other, and the Clippers were a bit sloppy on offense, allowing Cleveland to tie the game at the end of one.
The second quarter featured much of the same. LA was able to score at ease, but committed a few too many turnovers until the starting lineup came back into the game. Then, the defense tightened up and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got into the paint at will, He dominated his matchup with Collin Sexton. The team went on an 11-2 run to close the half on the backs of SGA and Green’s continued dominance of the glass. Landry Shamet and Pat Beverley also showed off their playmaking chops, perhaps at the expense of their shooting efficiency, but they were plus-10 and plus-17, respectively, in the first half.
There was a bit of a scary moment in the second quarter, when Montrezl Harrell went down, clutching his ankle. He hasn’t missed a game all season, and the entire team got up off the bench to check on him on the other side of the court. He hopped off the court, but looked fine upon returning. He hit a turnaround hook on the ensuing possession, followed by an emphatic dunk off of a Lou Williams pick-and-roll. Harrell capped off the half by hitting a late-shot-clock three, his third of the season, giving the Clippers are 13-point lead heading into intermission.
The Cavaliers made another run in the third quarter, once again spearheaded by Jordan Clarkson. This time, Lou Williams got things cooking in the fourth quarter. He scored 11 points in three minutes, including a personal 8-0 run to stretch LA’s lead from 8 to 20. Garrett Temple was instrumental in that stretch as well, and he finished 5-of-5 from the field for 13 points.
Ultimately, the star of the day was Gilgeous-Alexander, who ended the game with 22 points and 8 assists on 9-of-12 shooting from the field. He also made all of his threes and his shooting 59.4 percent from three-point range in March. If he continues to play at this level offensively, the Clippers will be a tough out in the playoffs.