As I write this, there’s 2:34 left, and Ryan Hollins from deep off the Clippers bench just dunked to stretched the lead even further north of twenty. I shiver as a repressed memory from 2011 sends me to the fetal position.
This game was a dominated from the tip off by L.A. They intimidated the Cavs around the basket all night on offense and defense. The Cavs hung around from about ten points down till late in the third, even cutting it to five at one point, but could never make it more than a two possession game. Nasty, unrelenting defense, shooting that defied the laws of physics and statics, and an officiating squad that will probably be asking the Clips for “Lob City” autographs after the game led to a tipping pint. At six minutes left in the fourth when Jamal Crawford and Chris Paul slit the Cavs throats with consecutive threes and stretched the lead to 18, anyone with a brain knew that the Cavs had no chance to win this game.
I just looked at the box score: and the only thing I can say is, Jamal Crawford missed six shots? I don’t recall him missing any. From 4 point daggers in the corner to pull-up jumpers from 22 feet with guys draped all over him as the shot clock expired to a ridiculous 25 footer from the right wing that went in off the freaking glass, everything this guy shot fell in tonight. Tip your hat, Cleveland and play again next week.
Chris Paul is currently the greatest table setter in the league. 15 assists in 33 minutes? Do you remember any highlights he had? I don’t. He was just heady and solid all night.
The inside game was dominated by DeAn”Tree” Jordan and Blake Griffin. There was nothing easy all night for the Cavs, and Griffin’s 11 board, 3 blocks, 3 steals and 5 uncalled fouls were evidence of just how good he’s gotten on defense. The 50 to 28 points in the paint advantage understated just how dominant the Clips were inside — mostly on lane filling fast breaks, layups, putbacks, and DUNKS. Oh and Jordan bowling over Cavaliers in the post.
But enough of the Clippers respect fest. Cleveland had some nice moments while they were keeping it close. Tristan Thompson had a positive game with 15 and 12 and seemed to relish the challenge of going after Jordan and Griffin. Dion Waiters had another excellent game: 17 points and 6 assists in 28 minutes. He had possibly the best dunk of his career in the third quarter, and possibly the most egregious uncalled foul against him a few plays later when Ronny Turiaf challenged Dion’s dunk attempt with his left arm and pushed Waiters down with his right arm. This is what Dani Socher and I hate about Byron Scott. If that were me, I’d've walked out to mid court in the middle of the Clippers’ fast break, pointed at Monty McCutchen, and said, “if you don’t start calling some fouls, you’re going to get my players hurt,” which is probably one of the thousands of reasons I’m not an NBA head coach right now. But anyway, Dion Waiters was really good.
Shaun Livingston had a decent game with 10 points, but could not make the offense sing like he has been. He had two and-1′s to keep it close though. It just seemed like there were two Clippers around every time each Cavalier touched the ball. C.J Miles kept the Cavs in it going into the early fourth with a some conscienceless shooting. His 16 points in 27 minutes were well needed. Even though he shot 7 threes, he moved well without the ball and had just enough cuts to keep the Clippers honest. Ellington’s plus minus came back down to earth with a -15 for the game, despite his 9 points and 3 dimes in 31 minutes. Trying to check the human parabola launcher that is Jamal Crawford is enough to kill anyone’s advanced stats.
The center spot deserves a special note. Tyler Zeller was called out all night by Austin Carr, and rightly so. I wouldn’t say he was “soft” per se, but his play was definitely this side of al dente. He was hesitant all night around the basket: afraid of getting blocked. He was pushed around and intimidated, and perhaps if Byron Scott was more interested in winning he’d have given some of Tyler’s 30 minutes to Speights, who played 18, but posted 10 points and 3 boards in that time, as opposed to Zeller’s 9 and 5. But this year is about development. And nothing teaches like having your butt handed to you. I think.
UPDATE: The initial box scores which this article referenced were not all correct and have been revised.