Cavaliers roll into form, hammer Clippers

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James scoring two of his game-high 27 points against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Cavaliers have won three straight games with one to go in their four-game Western Conference road trip, and have beaten both the Clippe
Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James scoring two of his game-high 27 points against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Cavaliers have won three straight games with one to go in their four-game Western Conference road trip, and have beaten both the Clippers and the Lakers at the Staples Center. PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES • A week before, the Cleveland Cavaliers had suffered the humiliation of being beaten by a Memphis Grizzlies side largely made up of fringe players.

On Sunday, however, they were a transformed team: They dismantled the Los Angeles Clippers 114-90 at Staples Center, their third win on a four-game Western swing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) league with a game to go.

"We're kind of getting in form right now," said Cavs star LeBron James, who scored 16 points in the first half and sat out all of the fourth quarter.

"Coach (Tyronn) Lue has done a great job of kind of finding out his rhythm, he knows what he wants out of us and we're responding.

"We have a great rotation going right now, guys are healthy, and we're just trying to play the game the right way."

His side were brilliant in nearly all aspects on Sunday, from their defence of Chris Paul and the Clippers' deadly pick-and-roll, to the 18 three-pointers they drained, which tied a season high.

Lue made all the right moves, from playing Kevin Love at centre for a long stretch, nullifying DeAndre Jordan's presence in the lane, to again placing faith in Channing Frye.

All Frye did in two games at Staples Center last week was to make 10 of the 14 three-pointers against both the Clippers and Lakers.

James posted a game-high 27 points, six rebounds and five assists and shot nine-of-15 from the field as the Cavs won their sixth game in seven outings.

Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith added 17 points apiece.

"The ball was moving, it had a lot of energy behind it, and guys were in great rhythm," said James, who 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."

The Cavaliers made 18 of 37 (48.6 per cent) from three-point range compared to 10 of 32 (31.3 per cent) for the Clippers.

The visitors also shot 48.8 per cent from the floor to 40.5 per cent for the Clippers, and dominated the battle on the boards (49-34) and second-chance points (15-0).

Irving, through, felt that nothing had changed.

"We've had ups and downs, had games where we haven't played well, lost back-to-back games and people just continue to write us off no matter what," he said.

"Then we have a good streak and now it's questions like what has changed? Nothing."

Nevertheless, he added in the same breath that the Cavaliers were experiencing the "the fun of the game and also knowing what we're gearing up for is in the back of our minds".

J.J. Redick had 19 points to pace the Clippers, who have lost three of their past five games. Paul collected 17 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

"It was tough losing the game, period," Jordan said. "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 11/2 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference play-off race.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2016, with the headline 'Cavaliers roll into form, hammer Clippers'. Print Edition | Subscribe