LOS ANGELES • The Cleveland Cavaliers handed the Los Angeles Clippers a gift on Saturday.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue decided to sit out his Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The Clippers took advantage, rolling to a 108-78 National Basketball Association (NBA) victory at the Staples Centre.
Blake Griffin scored 23 points and collected eight rebounds in three quarters, and the Clippers snapped a three-game losing streak by shaking off a sluggish start before closing out the win.
"When teams do that and you are playing them, it does throw you off a little bit, but you have to come out and win the game," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
"That is the objective no matter what. We did our job, and honestly, they did their job, too. They had to do what they had to do."
DeAndre Jordan had 13 points and 17 rebounds and J.J. Redick scored 16 points for the Clippers (41-29), who have a half-game lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder (40-29) for the No. 5 seed in the NBA's Western Conference. Jamal Crawford also had 13 points.
Lue said Cleveland's inability to generate much on the offensive end hurt them.
"That second and fourth quarter really hurt us as far as when you go deeper and deeper into your bench and when guys are sitting out, it kind of shows," he said. "We tried to compete. That's a good team over there, and they beat us."
James missed his sixth game and Irving sat out after not playing in the fourth quarter on Thursday due to left knee tightness.
Love returned from a 13-game absence following left knee surgery and is not cleared to play on consecutive nights.
Richard Jefferson came off the bench to score a team-high 12 points for Cleveland (45-23), who have a 11/2-game lead over the Boston Celtics for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Lue added that he is not concerned about where the Cavaliers finish in the conference race.
"We can afford anything; I mean you still have to beat us," he said when asked if the Cavaliers can afford to give away games.
"Teams have to try to beat us, so I'm not worried about that. If you were able to get second place, you still have to beat us and I think (teams) understand who we are and we know who we are. We're not worried about that."
Tristan Thompson and Deron Williams scored 11 points each, while Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and J.R. Smith scored 10 points apiece, as Cleveland shot 38.8 per cent and a season-worst 18.5 per cent from three-point range.
In Memphis, Mike Conley scored 19 points, Zach Randolph added 18 and Marc Gasol finished with 16, as the Grizzlies extended their winning streak to four with a 104-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Grizzlies (40-30) led for all but 48 seconds in the second half to hand the Spurs (52-16) their ninth road loss this season.
San Antonio, who had won 11 of their previous 13 games, got 22 points from Kawhi Leonard and 21 from LaMarcus Aldridge.
They remain second in the Western Conference, 21/2 games behind the Golden State Warriors, who beat the Milwaukee Bucks 117-92.
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