Cavs survive scare vs. Clippers
LOS ANGELES (AP)
LeBron James scored 13 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, and the Eastern Conference leaders survived a 3-point attempt at the final buzzer by Baron Davis for a 102-101 victory on Saturday night.
``We just got in attack mode,'' James said. ``I decided to be a little more aggressive on the offensive end, either making a play for myself or making a play for my teammates. We also had to get stops on the defensive end, which we were able to do. We just turned it up another notch.''
The Cavs were coming off a 97-96 loss on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Utah rookie Sundiata Gaines on Thursday - which offset a 20-point fourth quarter by James.
``For the second night in a row, he put us on his back. And this time he carried the team to a win,'' coach Mike Brown said.
Mo Williams had 18 points and reserve guard Delonte West, who didn't participate in the morning shootaround because of stomach issues, played 29 minutes and finished with 14 points.
About 4 minutes into the second quarter, West had some impromptu fun with a heckling fan who calls himself ``Clipper Darrell'' and shows up at every home game wearing a shiny and gaudy blue-and-red costume. When West went to the free throw line for the first time, Darrell went into his trademark insult: ``U-G-L-Y, you ain't got no alibi. You UGLY! You UGLY!''
West broke into a big smile and clapped his hands rhythmically - with the ball still in his hands - and the Cavaliers' bench broke up laughing as he made the first and missed the second. This strange interlude played out again 34 seconds later - only this time, West made both, and his teammates leaped out of their seats and celebrated as though they had just won on a buzzer-beater.
When asked if West should have acknowledged Darrell and allowed his concentration to be broken, James said: ``Absolutely. What's wrong with that? It's not a problem at all. It's all part of the game.
``That's one thing about our team - we enjoy playing the game of basketball,'' James added. ``The chemistry that we have on the court and off the court is the reason why we're so successful. We believe in each other, and that's why we do the things we do on the court. We're like a brotherhood on this team.''
Rasual Butler tied a career high with 33 points for the banged-up Clippers and Eric Gordon added a season-high 28. Center Chris Kaman missed his fourth straight game because of a sore lower back, and Al Thornton sat out due to a sprained left ankle.
The Clippers have lost all four games without Kaman, their leading scorer, who is averaging 20.4 points and 9.4 rebounds and was last week's Western Conference player of the week. They were outrebounded 32-27, becoming the 16th straight Cleveland opponent to lose the battle of the boards.
``The only thing we have to be disappointed in is our rebounding,'' Gordon said. ``When you look at the points, everyone was on. It was just our lack of rebounds that hurt us, especially at the end of the game.''
The Cavaliers have won 15 of 19 and eight of their last 10 on the road. They beat the Clippers for the seventh straight time, are 40-9 against Western Conference teams since the start of last season, and have won their last 11 against Pacific Division clubs.
The Cavs began the second half of their schedule with their 31st victory, tying the defending champion Lakers for the most in the league. At 31-11, they are off to their third-best start after 42 games in the franchise's 40-year history - three games worse than the club-record start they had last season.
The Cavaliers, who came in holding opponents to league-lows of 34.7 points in the paint per game and 43.4 percent field goal shooting, limited the short-handed Clippers to 30 points in the paint with the 7-foot Kaman out of the picture. But Los Angeles shot 59.7 percent from the field.
The Clippers led by as many as 13 points with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter. The Cavaliers kept chipping away in the fourth, but Butler's hot perimeter shooting kept them at bay until West's tip-in gave Cleveland a 100-99 lead with 2:51 remaining.
Butler paced the Clippers to a 56-47 halftime lead with 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting. James went to the bench with 2:38 left in the first quarter after picking up his second foul, and by the time he returned with 6:43 remaining in the half, Los Angeles had its five-point lead reduced to three.
NOTES: The Clippers were coming off a 40-point loss to the Lakers on Friday. ... Cleveland finished its road trip 3-2. Eleven of the Cavs' next 13 are at home, including a rematch with the Clippers on Jan. 31. ... James averaged 22.2 points in his 12 previous career games against the Clippers.