Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were apt to follow up a tough loss with another defeat. Things are slowly changing.
Rookie Dion Waiters hit seven 3-pointers in scoring 28 points and Kyrie Irving added 24 points in a 108-101 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night that snapped a two-game skid two nights after losing by three to Milwaukee.
Coach Byron Scott called it progress.
“Typically we play one good game and then we stumble,” he said. “Tonight seemed like the type of game where we could stumble, which is why I called a timeout so early in the game. I thought we were going through the motions and I wanted to let them know that I will sub guys out early if they’re going to play like that. They responded and played a good 45 minutes.”
Some of the biggest shots were hit by Waiters, whose points and 3-pointers set career highs in his fourth NBA game.
“My teammate found me,” he said, nodding his head in Irving’s direction, “and I was able to make shots. I was feeling good out there.”
Tyler Zeller added 15 points and Anderson Varejao had 15 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavs, who took the lead for good late in the first quarter.
Blake Griffin scored 20 points, Jamal Crawford added 19 and Chris Paul had 17 for the Clippers, who lost their second straight after opening the season with two wins. Their 25 turnovers led to 21 points for the Cavs.
“You make 25 turnovers and you’re going to lose just about every time,” said Paul, who was contained most of the game by the Cavs’ zone. “But it’s early though. It’s better we do this now than later, but we’ll be all right.”
The Cavs led by nine early in the fourth before Griffin, Paul and Crawford teamed up to spark the Clippers. Paul got things going with a 3-pointer and a driving layup, then set up Griffin’s dunk with an alley-oop pass before Crawford hit a 3 to tie the game at 94.
Waiters answered with two straight 3-pointers, the second coming in front of the Clippers’ bench, then Varejao stole a pass from DeAndre Jordan and hit a jumper at the other end to keep the Cavs ahead 102-96.
“Our defensive principles are not to give up the corner 3, and that’s my fault,” Paul said. “I take full blame for those two 3s that I gave up there towards the end of the game. Every time they hit one, it was tough.”
Crawford hit another 3-pointer to get the Clippers within three they got outscored 6-2 in the final 52 seconds. Griffin was called for two consecutive traveling turnovers in the closing minutes.