Notes, quotes and observations from the Cavaliers’ 125-120 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday night at Staples Center.
1. Before I get to Tristan Thompson’s apparently gruesome injury to his two front teeth, some pointed post-game criticism from Cavs coach Tyronn Lue.
2. Lue knew the Lakers have the second-worst record in the league and have shut down ex-Cavs Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng for the rest of the season to develop their young players. But Lue still expected the Lakers to take the game seriously and come to play. And he knew the Cavaliers would not.
3. “We messed with the game,” Lue said. “We know there are times we can turn it up, but sometimes it’s too late. They played a good game, we had to fight to try to win this game.”
4. The Cavs have been a flip-the-switch team dating back to last season, but Lue knew his players seeing the Lakers’ 20 victories might be a problem.
5. “I know our team and the way we are. Sometimes you have to understand it’s not a show, it’s a competition,” Lue said. “We get to LA and play teams like this, we consider it a show instead of a competition. And you get down early, teams get confidence and now you have to fight and struggle to win the game.”
6. Lue said it wasn’t until the Cavs trailed by 10 to start the fourth quarter that they decided to start competing.
7. On to Thompson. Considering how the past two months have gone, the Cavs might consider having a dentist with them at all times. On March 4 at Miami, Iman Shumpert chipped his two front teeth. On Feb. 9 at Oklahoma City, DeAndre Liggins had a tooth fall out and it caused a migraine.
8. Thompson joined that group with 3:15 remaining in the third quarter when he took an elbow to the mouth from the Lakers’ Julius Randle, who drew a technical foul for a “hostile act.”
9. Thompson got his two front teeth knocked in, headed to the locker room during a timeout and did not return. His agent, Rich Paul, left his seat later to check on him.
10. “He got his teeth knocked in. Wow, that’s nasty, I don’t know, he’s messed up,” Lue said.
11. By the time Thompson talked to the media he was no longer messed up, but admitted he didn’t take a selfie to remember the mouth full of blood.
12. What was required to fix it is not for the squeamish.
13. The Lakers’ team dentist numbed Thompson’s mouth, popped the two teeth forward and back in place and put on thin metal braces – Thompson called them ‘throwback braces” – that he must wear for two weeks.
14. Asked which teeth, Thompson said, “Two front teeth,” then added, “All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth.”
15. Thompson was thankful he was wearing a mouthguard.
16. “Yeah, if I didn’t have a good mouth guard, I’d have a tough time having a good dinner tonight, so God bless my mouth guard,” he said before leaving the arena with his girlfriend Khloe Kardashian. “It’s part of the game. Whoever says basketball ain’t a contact sport definitely lied.”
17. Thompson called Randle’s blow “a pretty good hit,” and said he considered going through the play and fouling to stop the action. But he said his mouth was dripping blood, so he called the timeout.
18. Thompson said he is fine and showed no concern over the issue jeopardizing his streak of 439 consecutive regular-season games played, the longest among active players in the league.
19. “I doubt that,” Lue said. “He was on the bench smiling with his mouthpiece in. I don’t think he feels too much pain.”
20. Thompson said he never considered that his beloved streak might be over.
21. “No, I was worried about my mouth, making sure that my two front teeth didn’t fall out. I’m glad they’re here. Doc did a great job,” he said. He added that he did not expect to have to visit a dentist in Los Angeles on the Cavs’ off-day Monday.
22. “I’ve been very lucky, fortunate, you play enough basketball games, stuff like this happens,” Thompson said. “It’s just part of the game, we’ve got guys here to fix it up and get you back on the court.”'
23. Asked who had it worse, himself or Shumpert, Thompson said, “Well, Shump ain’t have no teeth for a night, so I think I’m good.”
24. Richard Jefferson called Thompson and “tough kid” and pointed out how Lue took advantage of Thompson’s absence.
25. “We were able to go small, we were able to put ‘Bron on Randle and switch a lot of screen and rolls, which is something we should probably go to a little bit more and T-Lue has been implementing that,” Jefferson said. “We did it against Houston, just being able to switch all five and that really helped us also. Kyrie and ‘Bron just leading us the rest of the way.”
26. Sunday’s post-game was the first time LeBron James and Kyrie Irving addressed the criticism the Cavs received for them sitting out in Saturday’s nationally televised game to the Clippers. With Love playing just his second game Sunday after arthroscopic knee surgery and Irving feeling tightness in his left knee Thursday against the Pistons, the only healthy scratch was James.
27. “I don’t think the NBA can do anything about it,” James said. “At the end of the day, it sucks at times where certain guys have to rest, but certain guys need rest. It’s a long, strenuous season and the NBA does a great job of putting the schedule together as best as they can. You’re going to have back-to-backs. You’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights. But a coach’s job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game. Obviously, it sucks at times because you only play in certain cities once… For me personally, I want to play in every game. I wanted to play last night, but my coach felt like it was best that I didn’t play last night. So I’m going to go with my coach and he’s never steered me wrong."
28. James praised former NBA commissioner David Stern and current commissioner Adam Silver and said, “It’s the greatest game and it will continue to be that.”
29. As for the partnership with ABC for the Saturday night games, James said, “Well, I’ve been part of six straight Finals and every single season and every single Finals has been bigger and bigger and bigger and better and better and more people have tuned in. So, I don’t see there’s a problem going on with our league. There’s nothing bad at all with our league right now.”
30. Irving said resting players has been a hot topic all season, with the basketball world forgetting that San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has been using the tactic for four years.
31. “I can’t stress enough how important rest is,” Irving said. “You’ve got veterans who have come before us who play 82 games that have their opinions and we’re just in a different time now. Understanding what the important goal is at the end of the season is at the forefront of our minds. We’re playing for a championship run, playoff run. For us, games in the regular season against great matchups, we all want to play. I want to be part of it as much as possible, but when our coaching staff and our medical staff sits us and rests us, I’m not appalled to it. I know fans across the whole entire league want to see us at our best and they got to see a show tonight. I would’ve loved to have gone against the Clippers and had a great game against a veteran team like that and be able to play, but just respect the coach’s wishes and our medical staff.”
32. Lue considered Sunday a good victory more in the context of the standings. The two closest teams to the Cavs in the Eastern Conference, Boston (21/2 back) and Washington (four back) lost their last game, the Celtics Sunday and the Wizards Saturday. They meet Monday night.
33. After Monday’s day off, the Cavs are scheduled to practice Tuesday in LA before flying to Denver. Check back Wednesday night.