LOS ANGELES – No one could blame the Cavaliers for looking road weary in their game against the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday night in the Staples Center.
Ten days. Five games. Back and forth in two time zones. It’s enough to give sane people whiplash. That doesn’t, however, excuse the sluggish play after the end of a long trip.
But give them credit for eking out a 102-101 win against the Clippers in front of a sell-out crowd. LeBron James led the Cavs with 32 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Point guard Mo Williams followed with 18 points and six assists.
Rasual Butler paced the Clippers with 33 points, two rebounds and three assists, guard Eric Gordon tossed in 28 points, grabbed three rebounds and had four assists.
The Cavs died by the buzzer in Thursday night’s lost to the Utah Jazz; in this game, it proved to be a lifesaver, as a Baron Davis jump shot glanced off the rim into the hands of Delonte West to end the game.
It was the deciding play the best executed play, defensively, that the Cavs had all night. Davis got the ball off a pick-and-roll with 2.2 seconds left and looked to take the shot.
‘’We played it perfect,’’ James said.
Forward Anderson Varejao switched over to Davis and contested his 21-foot jump shot.
‘’Andy did a great job of staying in front of him, making him take a tough shot and got a good contest. Just as good a contest as we had in Utah, but this one fell short,’’ James said.
After the loss against the Jazz at the buzzer, this one had to give the players some sense of relief. But Saturday it was a case of the Clippers being able to choose their weapon.
‘’Yes if the ball hit Baron’s hands he was probably going to take the last shot,’’ coach Mike Brown said. ‘’That’s what great players do, but we also had to make sure we were respecting the other two guys.’’ The other two guys were Butler and Gordon, who singed the net for most of the night with their offensive play. But the Cavs were also aware of Davis.
‘’When a good player like B.D. has the ball, you definitely fear it,’’ James said. ‘’And hopefully, we’d play it the right way, which we did.’’
The Cavs were fortunate to even be in the position to be in the game. The Clippers led for most of the game opening up with a 10-0 run, that Cleveland battled back from. Even deep into the third quarter when Los Angeles led by 13 points with 2:50 left on the clock, it looked as if the Cavs would succumb. Not so.
Led by James, who had a scoring duel with the Clippers’ Butler, the Cavaliers came back. James scored 13 points in the period.
‘’We just got in attack mode. I decided to be a little bit more aggressive on the offensive end either making a play for myself or making a play for my teammates,’’ James said. ‘’We had to also get stops on the defensive end which we were able to do. We just turned it up a couple of notches.’’
He received timely help from his teammates, including seven points from point guard Mo Williams who had been struggling on the current road trip. Delonte West and Jawad Williams added some scoring off the bench to aid the cause.
Was it pretty? No. But the Cavs get to return home after their longest road trip of the season with a 3-2 record in five games and the best record in the Eastern Conference by mere percentage points. They return home to face the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday.
Delonte’s shimmy Guard Delonte West caught some flak from an exuberant Clippers fan who led the fans in his section in the familiar high school cheer: ‘’U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi. You UGLY!’’ while West was at the free throw line in the second quarter. West just played along with the taunt shimmying before his second free throw. The Cavs bench howled in laughter and James defended his teammates’ actions.
‘’Absolutely. What’s wrong with it? It’s part of the game,’’ he said when asked if West should have done it. ‘’The chemistry on the court, off the court is the reason we’re so successful, why we believe in each other and that’s why we do the things we do on the court because we’re like a brotherhood on this team.’’
Gag order continues
A national reporter asked LeBron James if he knew the words to I Love L.A, the Randy Newman classic and he replied: ‘’No, I know the words to I Love Akron and O-H- …’’
At least he's staying consistent by not talking about his free agency issues.
*tagline George M. Thomas can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohiomm.com/thomas. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/CavsABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CavsABJ