Foul play works for CAVS

Cavaliers forward LeBron James going for a reverse lay-up against the Clippers in the third quarter of their game at Quicken Loans Arena, which Cleveland won 115-102.
Cavaliers forward LeBron James going for a reverse lay-up against the Clippers in the third quarter of their game at Quicken Loans Arena, which Cleveland won 115-102.PHOTO: REUTERS

Coach loathes tactic but after rout by Warriors, uses it to good effect to clip Los Angeles' wings

CLEVELAND • Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt does not like to foul an opponent intentionally and has even referred to it as unsavoury. But with his team still reeling from their heavy loss at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, he is willing to try anything these days, including following rules he does not even like.

Kevin Love scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, and LeBron James had 22 points and 12 assists in the Cavaliers' 115-102 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in the National Basketball Association on Thursday.

One night after Detroit Pistons centre Andre Drummond shot 36 free throws largely from intentional fouls, the Cavs used the controversial hacking strategy on centre DeAndre Jordan late in the third quarter and again in the fourth.

Jordan, a 42 per cent shooter from the line this season, shot 6-for-15 from the line at the Quicken Loans Arena and finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

"I still don't like it," Blatt said. "I liked it tonight, but I still don't like it."

Cavs forward James Jones fouled Jordan four times in a span of 1min 21sec late in the third quarter. Jordan shot 3-for-8 during that stretch, and Cleveland extended a nine-point lead to 88-72 by the time he exited the game and the Cavs stopped fouling.

Although a few teams prefer to use the intentional fouls when they are trailing, both Blatt and Clippers coach Doc Rivers said statistics support using it when leading.

"Very few teams do it, but that's the proper way because it prevents you from making a run especially a team like us that can score," Rivers said. "They did a good job of that. Statistically, it shows that if you foul when you're down, you rarely win, but when you foul when you're up, you win a lot."

The Clippers rallied once the Cavs stopped fouling. A basket from Clippers guard Chris Paul pulled them within 87-93 in the fourth. But a three-pointer from Love extended the lead back to nine and the Cavs quickly began fouling Jordan again. The strategy pushed the lead to double figures.

The Cavs won for the 13th time in the past 14 meetings against the Clippers and improved to 18-3 against them all time at Quicken Loans Arena.

Paul had 30 points and nine assists, including 12 consecutive points in the first quarter to keep Los Angeles close. But for the third consecutive game, the Clippers' opponents scored at least 110 points.

"Our defence has been unacceptable," Paul said. "We're not being disciplined."

The victory against a top Western Conference team was important for the Cavs, who were blown away on Monday by the Warriors and remain 0-3 against Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs, the two top teams from the West.

The Clippers are not quite in that elite category, but they are not far behind.

Blatt bristled on Thursday at some of the criticism lobbed at his team in the days since the 34-point loss to the Warriors. The Cavs remain the top team in the East at 30-11, a nine-game improvement over where they were at the halfway point last season.

"I hear a lot of far-reaching conclusions and personally I don't like it," Blatt said. "I think this team are in pretty good position, although people choose to overlook that, which I don't think is fair."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2016, with the headline 'Foul play works for CAVS'. Print Edition | Subscribe