First thing’s first.
I knew the Cleveland Cavaliers had to win a game eventually.
They came into Friday night’s matchup with the Clippers riding an NBA-record 26-game losing streak, and were just getting Mo Williams back from injury.
While they’d still lost 10 straight with Williams in the lineup before he went down, he’s still the best player on the team.
He came off the bench Friday night and immediately made his presence felt. He finished the game with 17 points and 14 assists in just 31 minutes, and brought some on-court leadership and energy that the Cavs have been lacking during the skid.
That’s fine, though. Any team that gets their leader back should play with the extra energy and passion that said leader brings. That, along with the desire of that team to not set the record for the longest losing streak in the history of American professional sports in front of 20,000 frenzied fans makes it a difficult environment for any visiting team.
The Clippers were also victims to what had to have been the best single-game performances that Antawn Jamison and J.J. Hickson have had all season long.
Jamison finished with 35 points on 11-20 shooting from the floor, including 4-6 from three-point range. Hickson chipped in 27 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots, while making play after play on the defensive end.
Still, though. Really?
The Clippers’ team defense on this night was deplorable, at best.
They allowed the Cavaliers, the second-worst shooting team in the league coming into the night at just over 43 percent, to shoot exactly 50 percent from the field and score 126 points.
Hickson, who has struggled on both ends all season long, had a career-night.
While Blake Griffin finished with a team-high 32 points and 13 rebounds, he simply did not know what to do with Hickson down the stretch.
The All-Star rookie shot just 3-10 in the fourth quarter and overtime combined, as he struggled to get good looks over the long, outstretched arms of Hickson. He was also completely stuffed on what would’ve been a highlight-reel dunk, which directly led to a momentum-swinging transition three-pointer for the Cavaliers in OT.
Clearly, this is another area where the Clippers are sorely missing Eric Gordon.
Without Griffin being able to produce, L.A. could not find critical baskets when they needed him.
Baron Davis finished with a season-high 26 points along with seven assists, but some questionable shot selection at the end of the game contributed to the doom of the Clippers on this night.
He had what appeared to be the game-winning basket as time expired in regulation wiped away by a controversial Hickson block. The shot appeared to be on its way down as Hickson batted it away, but no whistle was blown.
While Griffin gets all the highlights and accolades, Gordon is undoubtedly “the guy” for the Clippers in late-game situations.
He’s improved his ability to create his own shot greatly this season, and has shown a knack for finding a way to score when the Clippers are in desperate need of a bucket.
Nobody else on the Clipper roster is consistently capable of doing so, and the team has been suffering in these situations without him, as a result.
The Clippers came into the 11-game road trip with a record of 3-16 away from home. In order to maintain any realistic change of snagging a Western Conference playoff spot, they needed to find a way to resolve their road issues and steal some wins from top-tier competition.
As of Monday, they’re now 4-20 on the road, and still have six games remaining until they return home.
All hope is certainly not lost, but playoff odds are looking increasingly slim with each defeat.
But hey. Look on the bright side. At least they were a part of NBA history.
About the Author
Written by Taylor Smith
Taylor Smith is a writer for the Los Angeles Clippers, and covers the Los Angeles Dodgers for ProSportsBlogging.com.