Game Notes: Cavs at Clippers
The Butler did it. Almost did it, that is.
When LeBron is in town, you better believe that everbody in Los Angeles changes their plans so they can see King James in action. No one wants to miss the show.
The Cavaliers struggled for a majority of the first three quarters Saturday night, but LeBron James got things going in the fourth, scoring 13 of his 32 points down the stretch in a 102-101 victory over the Clippers in front of a packed house at Staples Center.
Give Rasual Butler credit, he did make James work on the offensive end throughout. Butler wasn’t too bad himself. He tied a career-high with 33 points on 12-18 shooting from the field, highlighted by a 4-9 effort from the three-point arc, in 45 minutes of work.
Ultimately, LeBron was too much. What else is new?
At least fans who ended up rearranging their schedules and shelling out money for the pricey tickets got their money’s worth in the end.
Long live King James.
*** No Chris Kaman tonight. The Clippers big man will miss his fourth consecutive game with a sore lower back. And it’s too bad. Kaman had been playing extremely well this season. So well, in fact, there was talk of him being selected to the All-Star Game. The injury could ruin his chances of receiving an invite to the weekend‘s festivities in Dallas.
*** Just before the opening tip, James makes his way over to the scorer’s table and begins his routine of powdering his hands and throws the leftovers into the air. The fans love it. They eat it up. Camera flashes go off everywhere as if the paparazzi was in the house.
*** Look like the Clippers came out ready to play. Marcus Camby hits a 20-footer. Butler makes a basket. Eric Gordon knocks down a pair of three-pointers. All of a sudden, Los Angeles leads 10-0 with 8:51 left.
*** The Cavs put points on the board. Finally. Anthony Parker nails a 15-footer at 8:12. Minutes later, Shaquille O’Neal gets in on the act, catching an alley-oop from James and finishing. Then Shaq gets free down low and throws down a thunderous one-handed dunk to cut the deficit to six points at the midway point.
*** Butler is starting to feel it. He scores nine points in a row to extend the advantage to 25-18 with 1:31 remaining on the clock. When all is said and done, the Clippers are up by three points at the end of one.
*** After scoring the final five points of the first, Delonte West is right back at it, hitting a short jumper to tie the game, 31-31, at 8:17.
*** On the next trip down the floor, West is fouled, steps to the line, and with the crowd relatively quiet, Clipper Darrell begins harassing the Cavs’ guard with a chant of: “U-G-L-Y, you ain’t got no alibi. You ugly! You ugly!” It works as West misses the second of two free-throws. Cavs lead 32-31 with 7:58 left.
*** Shortly thereafter, West gets his revenge. He knocks down a pair from the stripe and shoots a smile in direction of the heckler.
*** On the bench with two fouls since the 2:38 mark in the first quarter, James returns with 6:43 remaining before intermission. Right on queue, he buries a three-pointer. Cleveland trails 43-39 at this stage of the game.
*** Butler scores six straight points. And then, Davis and Craig Smith combined for 10 points. The Clippers have a nine-point lead at the break.
*** Gordon gets hot. He makes a jumper, adds a free-throw and nails a three-pointer. The Clippers are up 62-51 at 9:30. When all is said and done, Gordon finishes with 28 points, including 4 three-pointers, 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
*** After trailing by as many as 13 points with 2:58 left, the Cavaliers wake up. It’s about time. LeBron leads the charge, of course, scoring 12 points in 12 minutes. For as poorly as it has played, Cleveland is only down 78-73 at the end of three.
*** Butler gets busy. Again. He hit’s a 16-footer and two three-pointers for the Clippers, who maintain their lead, six points, with 7:22 left in the game.
*** Mo Williams answers. He hits a pair of free-throws, a three-pointer and a jumper from out on the perimeter to tie the score 93-93 at 5:28.
*** On the ensuing possession, James electrifies the crowd. He goes backdoor, gets a bounce pass from Williams and elevates like only he can. Butler sees him, and wisely, moves out of the way. If he didn’t, Butler would’ve ended up on a poster because LeBron unleashes a monster one-handed dunk along the baseline.
*** Butler refuses to be outdone. With a hand in his face, he makes a three-pointer from the corner, successfully stealing some of the momentum the Cavs had built. The key jumper gives the Clippers a 98-95 advantage at 4:26.
*** Following a tip-in by West, James knocks down a pair of free-throws to give Cleveland a one-point lead with six seconds remaining. Not surprisingly, Mike Dunleavy and the Clippers call timeout to draw up a play.
*** One last chance for the Clippers. Davis gets the ball in his hands at the top of the key, moves to his right, Anderson Varejao jumps out on him after a switch, but the fadeaway three-pointer misses the mark. Cavs win, 102-101.
*** Getting a win against the Clippers was big for the Cavs, especially after they lost to Utah on a buzzer-beater Thursday. Mike Brown acknowledged as much afterward, offering high praise for James in the process: “For the second night in a row, he put us on his back,” said the Cleveland coach. “And this time he carried the team to a win.”
*** Davis never got into a rhythm, finishing with 9 points on 3-10 shooting from the field with 8 assists. He did, however, nearly end up being the savior. That is, until his final shot failed to find the bottom of the net. “I was just trying to create some space,” he said. “I didn’t get free like I wanted to. It was crowded there on that right side.”