LOS ANGELES: The Cavs have endured plenty of miserable starts this season, but Sunday’s against the Los Angeles Clippers was particularly dreadful.
Not only did they fall behind again 17-3 within the first six minutes, but they compounded their problems when Kyrie Irving injured his left biceps late in the first quarter and did not return in what became a 102-80 loss to the Clippers.
Irving left Staples Center with his arm in a sling and is scheduled for an MRI on Monday. No one knows yet the severity of the injury, but given what lies ahead, the Cavs can ill-afford to lose their best player for any number of games. They’re already 4.5 games behind the suddenly-surging Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the East.
“Seeing anybody go down is tough,” Jarrett Jack said. “I don’t want to speculate the extent of the injury. Hopefully we can get him back healthy as soon as possible.”
The Cavs fell behind by as many as 21 and still trailed by 17 entering the fourth, then held the Clippers scoreless for more than three minutes to start the quarter. A jumper by Jack cut the deficit to 76-69 with 9:22 left, but Blake Griffin ended the scoreless drought with a jumper and soon the Clippers’ lead was back to 17.
“When you give yourself that big of a deficit, you waste too much energy just trying to get back in the game,” Spencer Hawes said.
The real problem for the Cavs was another terrible start. They fell behind the Golden State Warriors 20-4 and 36-18 on Friday before staging an incredible rally. They had no such luck this time after missing their first five shots and seven of their first eight.
“We can’t come out and start games like that,” Jack said. “We had a lull period of almost a quarter-and-a-half where we just didn’t go out and compete. When we did, it kind of turned in our favor. But fighting an uphill battle against a team like them is a very tough task.”
Luol Deng had 23 points, Dion Waiters had 15 off the bench and Anderson Varejao had 12 rebounds for the Cavs, who were trying to sweep their first West Coast trip – and first road trip of any kind (minimum three games) in more than five years.
Hawes was assessed two technicals – his 10th and 11th of the season – and ejected late in the game. He was given the first for hollering and punching the air, even though he did it moving away from the officials, then was given the second after barking at referees again. Hawes waved goodbye and left the floor immediately. The two technicals will cost him $7,000 in fines, running his season total in fines up to $29,000. He will receive a warning letter from the league if he is given another one this season.
Hawes didn’t want to say what had him so upset.
“I’ve given up enough money tonight,” he said.
Griffin had 21 points and 11 rebounds, Chris Paul had 16 points (11 in the fourth quarter) and 15 assists and the Clippers remained the league’s hottest team, extending their winning streak to 11 straight. The Cavs, meanwhile, go home for another three-game gauntlet that includes the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets all at home.
The road trip was still a success, but it didn’t feel that way to Mike Brown after Sunday’s loss.
“You felt like you could’ve played better,” Brown said. “I’m excited about the two wins, but this one hurts. We lost. It makes it tough for me to feel good right now about the road trip. Maybe tomorrow I will, I don’t know.”