LeBron James scored 27 points, and the Cavaliers used an overwhelming first-half run to crush the Clippers 114-90 on Sunday at Staples Centre.
“We’re kind of getting into form right now, and coach (Tyronn) Lue has done a great job of kind of finding out his rhythm, and we know what he wants out of us and we’re responding,” said James, who amassed 16 points in the first half and sat out the entire fourth quarter. “We have a great rotation going right now, guys are healthy, and we’re just trying to play the right way.”
J.R. Smith, who hit five 3-pointers, and Kyrie Irving added 17 points apiece for the Cavaliers, who won their third straight and sixth in seven games. They also swept the season series. The Cavaliers (47-18) posted a 115-102 victory over the Clippers on January 21 at Cleveland.
Cleveland’s Channing Frye contributed 15 points, all coming via 3-pointers, and Kevin Love chipped in 12 points, all in the first half, and nine rebounds. Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 11 boards.
“The ball was moving, it had a lot of energy behind it, and guys were in great rhythm,” said James, who also had six rebounds and five assists. He moved past Kevin Johnson for 19th on the NBA’s all-time assists list with 6 716. “We made extra passes and we were able to execute with guys feeling great rhythm.”
J.J. Redick had 19 points to pace the Clippers, who have lost three of their past five. Chris Paul collected 17 points, 10 assists and five rebounds for Los Angeles (42-23). DeAndre Jordan finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Wesley Johnson and Austin Rivers also scored 11 points each.
“It was tough losing the game, period,” Jordan said. “But to lose to a team like this and the way that we did, it is not our type of basketball. We started out the game great, then they kind of got into us a little bit, and we never really got back.”
The Clippers slipped to 1 1/2 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No 3 spot in the Western Conference race.
Cleveland made 18 of 37 (48.6 percent) from 3-point range compared to 10 of 32 (31.3 percent) for Los Angeles. The Cavaliers shot 48.8 percent from the floor to 40.5 percent for the Clippers. The Cavs also commanded the battle on the boards (49-34) and second-chance points (15-0).
A pivotal 30-6 run between the first and second quarters bolted the Cavaliers past the Clippers for a 37-23 edge after a 3-pointer by Irving with 7:31 left before halftime. The Cavs led 58-41 at the break.
“We did not respond well when they put more pressure on us defensively,” said Redick, who made seven of 11 shots and two of five 3-pointers. “We are a better team when we get stops and play in transition and on the fly.”
In the third quarter, three Redick foul shots cut the Cavaliers’ lead to 71-59 with 4:12 remaining in the period. However, Cleveland increased the margin to as much as 25 with another surge.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Frye and Matthew Dellavedova put the Cavaliers up 88-63 with 1:05 remaining in the third. Overall, the Cavs closed the quarter with four consecutive 3-pointers – Smith and James each hit one – for a 91-68 advantage heading into the final quarter.
“We made shots,” said Irving, who sank just seven of 17 from the floor and two of seven 3-pointers. “We made (the Clippers) come into defensive rotations. We made it uncomfortable for DeAndre to come out and guard Kevin when we went small and (James) goes to the four, so it was hard for them to match up with us when we go small like that.”
Clippers rookie forward Branden Dawson was absent after he was arrested on Sunday morning in Playa Vista, California, on suspicion of felony domestic violence. Dawson was recalled from the NBA Development League’s Erie BayHawks on Saturday.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers knew Dawson hadn’t shown up for the game, but he didn’t find out Dawson had been jailed until he was heading to the court for tip-off.
“It’s an awful situation as far as I’m concerned,” the coach said. “I have a daughter, so I know first-hand how terrible a situation this is.”