Tomorrow’s story tonight …
The Clippers needed one sound quarter to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at Staples Center, one 12-minute span when the good outweighed the bad and their promise met their expectations.
After all their missed shots and misplays, the Clippers really only needed to master the game for the fourth quarter to subdue the more energetic Cavaliers and improve their record to 3-1 to start the season.
The Cavaliers wouldn’t allow it, holding off the Clippers down the stretch with superb long-distance shooting from youthful guards Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving and taking a 108-101 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060.
Waiters swished two clutch 3-pointers and Irving hit another critical 3 for the Cavaliers after the Clippers rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to tie the score at 94-all with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.
Waiters scored a team-leading 28 points, and Irving had 24.
The Clippers could have survived the Cavaliers’ onslaught and maybe even thrived if they had held a tighter grip on the ball, if they boxed out a little better and more often and if they had a better start than their sputtering first quarter.
The Clippers had a season-high 25 turnovers, gave up 18 offensive rebounds to the Cavaliers, surrendered 31 points in the first quarter and never led after Jamal Crawford completed a three-point play to make it 42-41 with 5:02 left in the half.
“This is our job to come out here and play, so we have to have that energy,”
Clippers point guard Chris Paul said after scoring 17 points, grabbing five rebounds and adding nine assists. “We have to come out ready to play and perform better than that.”
“In the fourth quarter we played with a chip on our shoulders,” Paul added. “We’ve got to do that from the jump.”
Actually, the Clippers raced to a 7-0 lead after 2 minutes, 15 seconds, forcing the Cavaliers to take a timeout in order to regroup. The rest of the first half didn’t go as well for the Clippers. The third quarter wasn’t anything to cheer either.
Cleveland led by as many as 13 points before the Clippers rallied. The Clippers tied it, but couldn’t get in front of the Cavaliers. It was a similar story Saturday, when the Clippers fell behind the Golden State Warriors and couldn’t get ahead of them.
The Warriors beat them 114-110.
“We have to do it, it’s as simple as that,” center DeAndre Jordan said of the Clippers’ lackluster starts, poor ballhandling and so-so rebounding the last two games. “We can’t keep talking about it. We can’t have too many excuses.”
Blake Griffin scored a team-leading 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting plus six rebounds for the Clippers (2-2), Crawford added 19 points in a reserve role, Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe each scored 11 points and Jordan had 10 points.
None of the Clippers played with the gusto of the Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller, however. Varejao scored 15 points and grabbed a team-leading 15 rebounds and Zeller had 15 points and seven rebounds in a reserve role.