LOS ANGELES (AP) — Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were apt to follow up a tough loss with another defeat. Things are slowly changing.
Rookie Dion Waiters hit seven 3-pointers in scoring 28 points and Kyrie Irving added 24 points in a 108-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night that snapped a two-game skid two nights after losing by three to Milwaukee.
Coach Byron Scott called it progress.
“Typically we play one good game and then we stumble,” he said. “Tonight seemed like the type of game where we could stumble, which is why I called a timeout so early in the game. I thought we were going through the motions and I wanted to let them know that I will sub guys out early if they’re going to play like that. They responded and played a good 45 minutes.”
Some of the biggest shots were hit by Waiters, whose points and 3-pointers set career highs in his fourth NBA game.
“My teammate found me,” he said, nodding his head in Irving’s direction, “and I was able to make shots. I was feeling good out there.”
Tyler Zeller added 15 points and Anderson Varejao had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavs, who took the lead for good late in the first quarter.
Blake Griffin scored 20 points, Jamal Crawford added 19 and Chris Paul had 17 for the Clippers, who lost their second straight after opening the season with two wins. Their 25 turnovers led to 21 points for the Cavs.
“You make 25 turnovers and you’re going to lose just about every time,” said Paul, who was contained most of the game by the Cavs’ zone. “But it’s early though. It’s better we do this now than later, but we’ll be all right.”
The Cavs led by nine early in the fourth before Griffin, Paul and Crawford teamed up to spark the Clippers. Paul got things going with a 3-pointer and a driving layup, then set up Griffin’s dunk with an alley-oop pass before Crawford hit a 3 to tie the game at 94.
Waiters answered with two straight 3-pointers, the second coming in front of the Clippers’ bench, then Varejao stole a pass from DeAndre Jordan and hit a jumper at the other end to keep the Cavs ahead 102-96.
“Our defensive principles are not to give up the corner 3, and that’s my fault,” Paul said. “I take full blame for those two 3s that I gave up there towards the end of the game. Every time they hit one, it was tough.”
Crawford hit another 3-pointer to get the Clippers within three they got outscored 6-2 in the final 52 seconds. Griffin was called for two consecutive traveling turnovers in the closing minutes.
“There’s not going to be a game where a team’s not gunning for us, so we have to have the mindset that everybody’s coming for us and we have to be coming for them even harder,” Griffin said.
Waiters scored 12 of Cleveland’s first 14 points to open the third, when they led by 13 early on only to see the Clippers cut it to six points going into the fourth. The Clippers shot 57 percent from the floor and regained a 16-10 edge in the paint to close within striking distance.
“When you have somebody going like that you just sit back and watch,” Irving said about Waiters.
Cleveland’s momentum carried into the second quarter when it outscored the Clippers 26-22 to lead 57-50 at the break, with Varejao’s driving layup just beating the halftime buzzer. Irving had 16 points in the half to eight by Paul, whose team had 13 turnovers in the first two quarters.
The Cavs missed their first four shots of the game while falling behind by seven. They got going near the end of the first quarter, with consecutive 3-pointers by Daniel Gibson and Irving to take their first lead of the game. NOTES: Zeller left the court with 5:39 to play after taking an elbow to his left cheekbone under his eye. He was being examined after the game and Scott said the team would know more on Tuesday. … Crawford had led the Clippers in scoring in each of their first three games. … Paul had nine assists, ending his run of three straight points-assists double-doubles. … The Clippers have sold out their first three home games, extending their streak of consecutive sellouts to 53. … The Cavs won the teams’ only meeting last season.