Clippers-Cavaliers Preview

The Los Angeles Clippers are one of the top road teams in the
NBA.

Whether that will help the Pacific Division leaders win their
first game in Cleveland in more than a decade remains to be
seen.

Los Angeles will try to end a 10-game road losing streak in this
series on Friday night when the improving Cavs could be without
All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving for a third consecutive game.

With Thursday’s 99-91 victory over Central Division-leading
Indiana, which was 24-5 at home, the Clippers (42-18) improved to
19-12 on the road.

Los Angeles is on the verge of winning 20 away from home for the
first time since going 20-21 seven seasons ago, but the team is
well aware of its struggles against Cleveland (20-38), winner of 13
of 15 in this series following a 108-101 victory at Staples Center
on Nov. 5.

“It’s going to be a tough game in Cleveland,” said point guard
Chris Paul, who scored the team’s final eight points on Thursday to
finish with 29 in the Clippers’ fourth straight road win. “They did
(beat us earlier this year) and they beat us last year (99-92 on
Feb. 8) in Cleveland.”

Before kicking off a stretch of seven of nine at home on Sunday
versus Oklahoma City, the Clippers – winners of seven of eight –
will try to record their first victory at Cleveland since March.
10, 2002.

Slowing down Dion Waiters, who hit a season-high seven
3-pointers and scored a team-best 28 points on Nov. 5, could help
Los Angeles get the job done.

Waiters, the league’s second-highest rookie scorer with 14.8
points per game, has totaled 48 with Irving out the last two games
– wins over Chicago and Toronto. Waiters is averaging 20.3 points
over the last six contests, with the Cavs’ only losses during this
stretch coming against the NBA’s top two teams, San Antonio and
Miami, and by a total of five points.

“He understands what he has to do when Kyrie is not there,
because we asked him to do a little bit more with the ball,” coach
Byron Scott said.

Scott said Friday that Irving will be a game-time decision
against the Clippers.

The Cavaliers’ bench has also been a big help, outscoring
opponents’ reserves by an average of 19.0 points over the last four
games. That production helped Cleveland finish 7-5 in February –
its first winning month since March 2010 when LeBron James was
still with the team.

“I think we’ve got a taste of (winnings) now and understand how
hard it is and how much work goes into it,” forward Luke Walton
said.

The Cavs will need that same effort down low against Blake
Griffin, who is averaging 26.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in four
games versus Cleveland after scoring 20 with six boards on Nov.
5.

Griffin, though, has been hampered by a bursa sac problem in his
right elbow, and he needed it checked by trainers on Thursday after
crashing to the floor.

Even if that slows the All-Star forward, the Cavs have to find a
way to contain Paul. The All-Star Game MVP is shooting 65.0 percent
from the field and averaging 24.8 points with 9.8 assists during
the Clippers’ four-game road winning streak over East foes.

“Best point guard in the universe right now,” Pacers coach
Frank Vogel said.

Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, who scored 23 points on Thursday
after missing Tuesday’s win over Charlotte due to the birth of his
daughter, is the league’s best bench scorer with 16.8 per game. He
hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points in the first matchup with
Cleveland this season.