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Find out the scoop on the CAVS from award-winning sports writer Bob Finnan.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Game 67: Cavs at Clippers

Staples Center
Radio/TV: WTAM (1100 AM)/Fox Sports Ohio

WHAT HAPPENED?: The Clippers have now ripped off 11 consecutive wins, which ties the NBA high this season.

They haven't lost since Feb. 21 at Memphis.

With that being said, they were ripe for the picking on Sunday. The Cavs started the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run. They narrowed their deficit to seven points. Then their offense stalled. They couldn't make a shot - and they had some good ones.

Still, they finished the West Coast trip with a 2-1 record. That's good in anyone's book. But the Cavs are running out of time. They are 4 1/2 games behind No. 8 Atlanta in the Eastern Conference playoff race with 15 to play.

Cavs All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a biceps injury. He finished with two points - almost 20 fewer than his season average. The Cavs don't have the kind of depth to overcome the loss of Irving.

He'll be examined at the Cleveland Clinic when the Cavs get home on Monday. Don't be surprised if he misses some time, which would be a death blow to this team's playoff chances.

Point guard Chris Paul is the engineer of the Clippers' offense. He was fantastic on Sunday with 16 points, 15 assists and two steals. He dictated the tempo of the game with Irving in the locker room.

He didn't have a turnover in 36 minutes. He leads the league with 10.9 assists per game, along with his 4.53 assist-to-turnover ratio. Take my word for it: That's impressive.

Then, we can't forget about power forward Blake Griffin, who turned 25 on Sunday. This guy is quickly turning into the league's premiere power forward. He's improved his perimeter shooting. He was already the top dunker. He had 21 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

With this much talent on one team, it's easy to forget center DeAndre Jordan. That's where teams get in trouble. He leads the NBA in field-goal percentage at 66.3 percent. I guarantee you, some players couldn't shoot that well if they were in a gym by themselves.
He shoots that well because all of his attempts are either dunks or layups. He made 7 of 8 shots on Sunday.

He's also first in the league in rebounds per game at 13.9. 

Coupled with Griffin's 9.7 (13th in the NBA), you can see their rebounding strength.

Jordan ended with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Cavs' big men need to show up for this contest. It starts with power forward Tristan Thompson, who was non-existent in the Warriors game. He needs to make Griffin work. Unfortunately, Thompson was suffering from food poisoning before the game and finished with just two points and one rebounds in almost 20 minutes.

The Clippers cross switched on defense and had Griffin defend Cavs center Spencer Hawes, who had been making a living at the 3-point line. Thompson is more of a stay-at-home big, which would more suit Jordan's game.

Hawes ended with 14 points and five rebounds before being ejected with 1:19 left in the game. He picked up two technical fouls, which will cost him $2,000 apiece.

Forward Luol Deng paced the Cavs with 23 points and six rebounds. He turned his left ankle in the first half, but stayed in the game. It could be sore on Monday.

The Clippers also have strength in numbers. They bring Danny Granger, Glen Davis and normally Jamal Crawford off the bench. Crawford was sidelined with a strained left calf.

The Cavs didn't get swingman C.J. Miles back in the lineup. He's missed the last 12 games with a sprained left ankle. His outside shooting has been missed.

The Cavs nipped the Clippers on Dec. 7 at The Q, 88-82. The Clippers' point total was a season low for a Cavs' opponent this season.

They are 17-6 against the Clippers since the 2002-03 season. They had also won five of the last six meetings against the Clippers at Staples Center.

In the first two games of the three-game road trip, the Cavs had outscoring their opponents, 106.5-97.5, while shooting a combined 47.8 percent from the 3-point line (22 of 46).

The real improvement has come on the defensive end. Since Feb. 8, the Cavs are holding teams to the third-lowest field-goal percentage in the NBA (43.3 percent), as well as the sixth-lowest points per game (97.7).

They are getting after it on the defensive end, which should make Coach Mike Brown happy.

The Cavs had won six of the last eight games vs. the Western Conference (before Sunday). On the season, they are 12-16 against the West.

They are 11-24 on the road this season.

UP NEXT: The Cavs host Miami at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

SF Luol Deng (6-9, 220) vs. Matt Barnes (6-7, 226)
PF Tristan Thompson (6-9, 236) vs. Blake Griffin (6-10, 251)
C Spencer Hawes (7-1, 245) vs. DeAndre Jordan (6-11, 265)
SG Jarrett Jack (6-3, 200) vs. Willie Green (6-2, 185)
PG Kyrie Irving (6-3, 193) vs. Chris Paul (6-0, 185)
Cavs - G/F Sergey Karasev, G Carrick Felix, C.J. Miles
Clippers G J.J. Redick
Bennett Salvatore, JT Orr, Scott Wall


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