CLEVELAND: Eight seconds into the game, Chris Paul lofted a lob high in the air that Blake Griffin caught for an easy dunk. Ten more dunks followed just like it on Friday as the Los Angeles Clippers dunked, muscled and bullied their way to an easy 105-89 victory over the Cavaliers.
With Kyrie Irving sidelined for the third consecutive game with a hyperextended knee, the Cavs suffered their worst loss in a month and lost to the Clippers at home for the first time in more than a decade.
“I thought the first play was indicative of the whole game,” coach Byron Scott said after calling the Cavs’ effort soft and sluggish against one of the league’s best teams.
The Cavs typically don’t have a problem getting motivated for the elite teams, but they were never really in this game — except for a brief burst in the third quarter when they cut the Clippers’ lead to three. Otherwise, they trailed most of the night and were manhandled inside by the Clippers’ combination of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Griffin had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Jordan had 10 points as the Clippers outscored the Cavs inside 50-28.
“We’ve got to foul those guys,” Tristan Thompson said. “We gave them a lot of easy baskets and that’s unacceptable.”
Griffin is shooting 66 percent from the free-throw line and Jordan is shooting 42 percent. They combined for nine attempts and made only two.
The Cavs trailed the entire night and really let the game get away in the second half.
After Alonzo Gee’s basket cut the deficit to 62-59, the Clippers blew open a 23-point lead.
The Cavs went nearly six minutes in the fourth quarter without a field goal and the Clippers poured it on in the fourth, making four 3-pointers to stretch the lead to 99-76 with 4:41 left.
Dion Waiters, named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month right around tip-off, scored 17 points. C.J. Miles had 16 points off the bench and Thompson had 15 points and 12 rebounds. It was the Cavs’ worst loss since falling 117-99 at the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 1, a defeat the prompted a team meeting in the locker room.
It was also the team’s first loss in three games since Irving went down with the knee injury.
“When you lose your best player, you can survive that for three or four games,” Scott said. “But you just can’t survive for 10, 11 or 12 or whatever the case may be. I don’t know if that’s what caught up to us. The Clippers were just a much better basketball team than we were tonight.
“We can get away with that against some of the lesser teams, but you can’t come out with that mentality like we did tonight. We were on our heels, they were the aggressor. We were trying to react to everything they were doing.”
It was the Cavs’ first home loss to the Clippers since March 10, 2002, when LeBron James was a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary and Trajan Langdon was the team’s leading scorer with 17 points.
Jamal Crawford, whom the Cavs drafted in the first round in 2000 and immediately traded for Chris Mihm, completed a 4-point play when he was fouled on a 3-pointer. The free throw extended the lead to 85-70 with 9:51 left, and Crawford followed it up by banking in another 3-pointer from high off the glass with the shot clock running down a few minutes later. After Paul followed with another 3-pointer on the Clippers’ next possession, the Cavs’ night was over.
Paul had 11 points and 15 assists and Crawford had 24 points off the bench for the Clippers.
“We were soft with everybody else,” Scott said, “why not be soft with [Crawford] as well?”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.