CLEVELAND (AP) — Jamal Crawford eyes the 3-point line and sees something else — four points.
Crawford scored 24 points, converting a four-point play and making another 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, and Chris Paul had 15 assists as the Los Angeles Clippers finally switched on the after-burners in the final minutes and beat the Cavaliers 105-89 on Friday night for their first win in Cleveland since 2002.
The Clippers had lost 10 straight at Quicken Loans Arena, but sparked by Crawford’s 37th career four-point play, pushed aside the Cavs for their fourth win in a row.
“The hardest part of that is making the free throw, honestly,” Crawford said. “There’s so much pressure on that free throw, you better make it.”
With Los Angeles leading by 11 and unable to shake off the Cavs, Crawford converted his four-point play, something he says “is not by accident.”
Never one to pass up a shot — whether he’s open or not — Crawford was fouled by Cavs center Marresse Speights while knocking down a high-arching 3-pointer from the deep corner with 9:51 left. He calmly made the free throw, giving the Clippers an 85-70 lead and extending his NBA record for the quirky play.
It sent a much-needed jolt through the Clippers, who were understandably sluggish after playing at Indiana on Thursday night.
“That was huge,” Paul said. “They’re always so timely. He just makes big shot after big shot. What he does is priceless. Everybody knows how well he shoots and that’s why they close out the way they do.”
Blake Griffin had 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Clippers, having their best season in franchise history, tuned up for Sunday’s showdown at home against Oklahoma City. After Griffin scored on a monster dunk — off a lob from Crawford — to put Los Angeles ahead by 23, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro pulled his starters with 4:19 left.
Rookie Dion Waiters scored 17 for the Cavs, who played their third straight game without injured All-Star guard Kyrie Irving. Cleveland won two games earlier this week with Irving in street clothes because of a hyperextended knee.
C.J. Miles had 16 points and Tristan Thompson 15 for Cleveland, which beat the Clippers earlier this season and was within nine to open the fourth. The Cavs, though, didn’t have enough firepower down the stretch to match the high-flying Clippers.
“They’re without their best player,” Del Negro said. “They’ve been playing good basketball. We’re coming off a back-to-back. There’s no easy games. I don’t care who you’re playing.”
Crawford nearly had a chance at another four-pointer.
After a basket by Eric Bledsoe, Crawford banked in a long 3 to beat the shot clock. As he retreated on defense, Crawford complained to the officials he had been fouled, but to no avail. The next time the Clippers had the ball, Paul drained a 3 to make it 93-76 and Cleveland fans began heading toward the exits.
Griffin beat Cleveland’s Tyler Zeller down the floor and soared for an alley-oop dunk, getting fouled on the play by the rookie center. As Griffin picked himself up before shooting and making his free throw, Paul had a word or two with Zeller, who shrugged and tried to explain the contact was not on purpose.
Moments later, Griffin made a steal near halfcourt and went in for an uncontested dunk, a throwdown that delighted the crowd and would have earned a 50 from a panel of dunk-contest judges.
But just when it appeared the Clippers might take off, Waiters scored four points and the Cavs went into the fourth down 77-68.
“I thought we were lucky to only be down nine,” Thompson said. “But they’ve got guys who can make plays. They have Chris Paul and then you have Jamal Crawford, who can score 20 points in five minutes. They have guys who can make plays and make shots.”
Named the Eastern Conference’s top rookie in February after averaging 15.8 points, Waiters came out hot. He made his first four shots and scored nine points in the first quarter, but spent the final 2:51 on the bench with two fouls. He had 11 points when he picked up his third personal and had to sit.
The Clippers used a 10-run bridging the first and second quarters to open a 12-point lead they extended to 14 on Griffin’s three-point play.
Without Irving, and with Waiters in early foul trouble, the Cavs struggled on offense throughout much of the first half.
Although Irving’s knee has improved, the Cavs decided to rest him again. Cavs coach Byron Scott wanted his young star to be “close to 100 percent” before he returns.
NOTES: Waiters is averaging 22.8 points in his last four games. … Scott coached Paul in New Orleans and has remained close with the point guard, who before the game spent some time visiting in the Cleveland coach’s office. “He’s an unbelievable guy,” Scott said of CP3. “We’ve got a great relationship.” … Forever a Laker, Scott said it pains him to accept that the Clippers are now the kings of basketball in Los Angeles. “It hurts me to see the purple and gold where it is right now,” Scott said. … Clippers C DeAndre Jordan, who came in shooting 42 percent from the line, shot an airball in the first half that wasn’t within 2 feet of the rim.