LOS ANGELES-The Los Angeles Clippers-Cleveland Cavaliers game at STAPLES Center on Sunday wasn’t something pretty to watch, but the home team will gladly take the win. Lob City turned into grind it out ball as the Clippers plowed their way to a 102-80 win in a game that was played much closer than the final outcome indicates.
Of course, the Clippers had the superior team on the floor. However, every time Los Angeles threatened to turn the contest into a full-fledge blowout, Ceveland would rumble and stumble its way back into the ballgame. The first five minutes of the game looked like this one was going to be a complete walkover for the Clippers with Los Angeles busting open the first quarter with a quick 19-5 lead.
The Cavaliers said not so fast. Cleveland then effectively slowed the game into a crawl, allowing the Cavaliers to play within striking distance of the Clippers the rest of the game by playing ugly ball. That’s the way Mike Brown coaches his team to play.
Even when he had LeBron James, the defensive-minded Brown made the Cavaliers a reflection of Cleveland, putting together a team that showcased grit and displayed a lot of tough-nosed scrappiness.
In his first year back with the Cavaliers, Brown has had a tough go at it with his team sliding to a 26-41 record. Nevertheless, Brown and his team brought their blue-collar work ethic with them to Los Angeles, knocking bodies to the floor and making it rough going in the painted area. Cleveland outrebounded the Clippers 48-41, and pulled down more offensive boards (16-10) during the game.
The Clippers, shooting a shade under 45 percent from the field, didn’t score more than 27 points in a quarter against the Cavaliers. Fans coming to see a whole bunch of highlight-reel dunks received a full dose of what NBA basketball looks like at this time of the season. Bodies fly around the paint, the middle part of the lane turns into the 405 freeway during rush hour and half-court, methodical execution becomes the norm rather than the exception.
But when it matters the most the stars always shows up and deliver. Thankfully, the Clippers have two of the best in the NBA in finishing games. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul showed again why they are the top duo in the league. Griffin finished the game with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Paul, who handed out 15 dimes, scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter.
More importantly, Paul took over the game late in the fourth period after Cleveland had sliced the Clippers’ lead to 76-69. Paul converted several jumpers and a handed out a couple of assists to put the Clippers in firm control of the game. For his part, Griffin, while not operating in the spectacular for most of the night, was steady in his production. Center DeAndre Jordan ended the game with 11 rebounds.
What does all of this mean for the Clippers? Well, for one the team has has gone on a 11-game winning streak. All of those question marks at the beginning of the season about whether Doc Rivers can take the Clippers to the next level can be thrown out the window. The Clippers were a lot more exciting to watch last year. But under Rivers this season, the Clippers have the actual feel of being a championship-contending team.
The Clippers are still a lot of fun to watch. They just had a new attitude. Flash, dash and splash is cool but it won’t put any rings on anyone fingers. As the Clippers are finding out under Rivers, bringing your hard hat to work everyday makes for better results.
Dennis is the editor and publisher of News4usonline. He covers the NFL, NBA, MLB, racial and social justice, civil rights, and HBCUs. Dennis earned a journalism degree from “The Mecca” aka Howard University. “I write on what I am passionate about.”