Los Angeles – Following the All-Star break, the Clippers’ adversity has been voiced by players and coaches, The Clippers 4-7 record since the break isn’t the type of momentum a team with admitted championship aspirations would like to have rolling into the playoffs, but the frustrating search for answers took a step in the right direction against the Cavaliers.
The determined Clippers defense held the Cavaliers to 31 points in the first half, the lowest an opponent has scored in the first half since 2014. Albeit, Cleveland was without its three All-Stars, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, but the team focused on the positive takeaways
“The guys that were out there were still pros,” Chris Paul said. “It’s about us, not about them.”
The Clippers defense forced Cleveland into 38-percent shooting for the game, limiting them to five of 27 from three point range and only four offensive rebounds for the game. No player on the Cavaliers scored more than 12 points,
To start the game, a malaise hung in the STAPLES Center arena, with fans jeering to see LeBron play. After the lethargic beginning of the game, with the teams tied at 24 points in 18 minutes of play, the Clippers picked up the defensive intensity, leaking over to better offensive execution.
“Guys started making shots, I still didn’t,” Chris Paul said, who finished without a made field goal for the first time in three years, and only the seventh time in his career, but did dish out seven assists. “J.J. [Redick] got going and we started to pick it up a bit.”
Redick scored seven of his 16 points on a 23-8 run that closed the second quarter to put the Clippers up 15. Blake Griffin put an exclamation mark on the run, with a two handed, putback dunk over two Cavalier defenders.
Griffin led the team with 23 points and collected eight rebounds, but only wanted to praise the defensive synergy following the game.
“I liked our defensive spirit and our talk,” Griffin said “Our trust was high tonight, that’s what I like most.”
The Clippers defensive anchor, DeAndre Jordan, finished with his 31st double-double on the season, tallying 13 points, 17 rebounds and a team best plus-23 when he was on the court.
Los Angeles was coming off a three game losing streak, partly because of resting Griffin and Jordan in Denver. Following the game against the Cavs, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was peppered with questions about resting players.
“I hate it for the fans,” Doc Rivers said. “I hate it. I do it. We all do it. It’s bad, and I did it the other night in Denver. There were people with Blake and DJ jerseys all over the place.”
There was no delusion postgame about the Clippers victory, they were aware the victory over the Cavaliers didn’t quite carry the same weight.
“It is a different game without LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin playing, obviously,” Griffin said. “I am not going to pretend like it is not. At the end of the day, you still have to go out and execute.”