Cavs face off with Clippers in tail end of L.A. back-to-back
After ending an embarrassing skid in the opener, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers could find it difficult to sweep their two-game stay at Staples Center.
While the Cavaliers look to win back-to-back road games for the first time in nearly five weeks Friday night, the Los Angeles Clippers will try to tie for the Western Conference lead with their 18th home victory.
In his second game since missing a career-high eight due to knee and back soreness, James had 36 points and hit four 3-pointers Thursday in a 109-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers that snapped a season-worst six-game losing streak.
James hasn’t skipped a beat by totaling 69 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists and going 7 for 18 from beyond the arc since returning. He’s averaged 29.2 points, 8.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists in his last six road games against the Clippers.
The Cavaliers (20-20) have dropped eight of nine while averaging 91.0 points without James and are 19-12 with 102.6 points per game with the four-time MVP in the lineup.
"If you take away the first half (in Tuesday’s loss) in Phoenix, for six straight quarters we played some really good basketball," James said. "We want to get back to our winning ways and get back to the continuity that we had before I had the injury."
Kyrie Irving chipped in with 22 points Thursday and Kevin Love scored 17 while playing through back spasms. Love, a Santa Monica native and former UCLA star, has totaled 68 points and 38 boards in his last two road games against the Clippers.
The Cavs, though, will likely have to tighten up defensively to win back-to-back games for the first time since taking three in a row Dec. 19-23. They haven’t won two straight on the road since a three-game run from Dec. 4-8.
Cleveland has given up 106.0 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting in its last five games – a trend the Cavs would need to end against a Los Angeles team that is 18-1 when it shoots 46.5 percent or better.
The Clippers (26-13), who are 17-6 at home, bounced back from Sunday’s 104-90 loss to Miami at Staples with an impressive 100-94 win at Portland on Wednesday.
Jamal Crawford had 25 points and hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:55 remaining as Los Angeles came back from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit. Chris Paul scored 23 and DeAndre Jordan had 17 points and 18 rebounds.
"Them being one of the better teams in the league, us being one of the best teams in the league, and obviously the whole country was watching, so it was a really good game," Crawford said. "It’s one of our better wins."
Los Angeles held the Trail Blazers, one of the NBA’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams, to 6 of 26 from beyond the arc. The Clippers are defending the perimeter well, limiting opponents to a 29.9 3-point percentage over their last four games.
The Cavaliers haven’t been shy about launching from long range, making 10.2 on 30.0 attempts per game in their last six. Newcomer J.R. Smith totaled 43 points while going 11 for 24 from long range in his past two.
Jordan totaled 27 points and 24 rebounds for the Clippers when the teams split two meetings in 2013-14. Blake Griffin had 21 points, 11 boards and eight assists in a 102-80 home win March 16, when Irving played only nine minutes due to injury.
Paul is averaging 21.8 points and 10.8 assists while sinking 10 of 22 from 3-point range over his last four games. He’s also racked up 15 assists in each of his last three meetings with Cleveland.