The Cavaliers decided to take their talents to Spectrum SportsNet, and ABC didn’t take it well at all.
As far as 30-point blowout wins go for a team that hasn’t had anything resembling one in a long while, there’s really not that much to say about this game. Cleveland announced an hour before tipoff that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love (plus birthday boy Kyle Korver) would all sit — the latter three due to legitimate injury concerns, LeBron because at-that-point-why-even-bother.
That pretty much took the wind out of everybody’s sails, except for the people who refocused it into outrage towards millennials and entitled millionaires and the other usual targets. Enough ink will be spilled over them elsewhere, I’ll not to talk about it too much here.
The Clippers came out of the gate as flat and disinterested as I’ve ever seen them. Not in a depressing, this-team-is-already-packed-for-vacation way, but more in the sense that they knew this game had suddenly turned into a giant farce. The arena underscored this; for the first five minutes you could hear every shoe squeak and grunt on the floor, as if this was your local gym and you were on the sideline waiting to get in next game (so long as you pretended not to hear the ABC crew feverishly bloviating).
Neither team was very successful making shots in the early going (at one point midway through the second, they were a combined 1-22 from deep). The Clippers strung together enough possessions to mount a 10-0 run in the first few minutes, suggesting this game would be a laugher from the start. Instead, it turned into a half-speed slugfest as the Clippers lackadaisically went through the motions, while Cleveland’s supporting cast refused to go away without trying to make things interesting (as these sorts of games are wont to go).
Once the second units came in, the Cavs managed to take a two-point lead and keep the margin within a single possession till the starters returned. It was as ugly as could be — 16-14 after one frame, 24-24 midway through the second. But the Clippers decided to stop hitting snooze more quickly than they usually do, enforcing their will on the Cavs down the stretch of the first half. A 13-0 run broke the game open, and a Blake tip jam off a missed DeAndre FT would push the halftime advantage to 47-31.
The ragtag Cavaliers briefly threatened insurrection with a spate of three-balls early in the third, but that period belonged to Blake Griffin, who scored 13 points on 6-8 shooting as the Clippers quickly snuffed out Cleveland’s counteroffensive. He looked spry and decisive, something that’s been missing for long stretches over the last few weeks.
Even with Chris Paul a sweltering 0-8 from the field, tonight’s outcome was never seriously in question. Once the bench came back in the third, the game turned into a showcase for Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, their exploits helping inflate the lead to 25+ and sending the game into extended garbage time. The three-man booth of Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson spent most of the last six minutes discussing their favorite movie lines, for those of you who tuned out and wanted an idea of what they managed to avoid.
In my preview, I suggested that a big win against a contender on national TV might be enough of an emotional jolt to kick the Clippers back into high gear. Of course, that was before the game lost all meaning. Think of it like a random self-contained filler episode on a TV show, bifurcating a major narrative arc. Or like the eye of a hurricane, a brief moment of calm outside of time and space before re-entering the fray.
Like the last time the Clippers played Cleveland, they came in on a three-game losing streak with Blake Griffin resting in the most recent loss. Like last time, his absence led to the resurrection of Paul Pierce. And like last time, that led to Pierce suddenly re-entering the regular rotation the next game against Cleveland. I won’t lie to you, my heart went cold as soon as I saw that headband on the floor. Dear god, this man is like Rasputin! He simply refuses to stay buried.
To make things worse, he had an objectively good game: 3-3 from the field (including this driving dunk) for 7 points in 14 minutes, along with 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block. I don’t hold any personal animus for Pierce, but Doc’s continued dalliances (fueled by delusions of a series-swinging throwback game in the playoffs) are unhealthy for this team and will ultimately be the death of the Clippers.
For the love of that is holy, please Doc, stop trying to be like a scientist in a monster movie. They always end the same way.