The Cleveland Cavaliers matched the best 16-game start in franchise history and aim to add another victory to the win total when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday. Cleveland routinely handles the Clippers in its home building with wins in 18 of the past 21 matchups at Quicken Loans Arena.
Despite Cleveland’s early season success, the defending NBA champions played their worst game of the season on Tuesday, when they suffered a 118-101 road loss against the Milwaukee Bucks. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue was so disgusted with the performance that he sent in five reserves with 3:49 left in the third quarter when the regulars continued to sputter. Los Angeles is spiraling in the wrong direction with three consecutive defeats after beginning the season with a franchise-best 14-2 start. Power forward Blake Griffin will be back in the starting lineup after sitting out for rest during Tuesday’s 127-122 double-overtime loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles), FSN Ohio (Cleveland)
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (14-5): Center DeAndre Jordan registered season highs of 21 points and 23 rebounds in the loss to the Nets, and he was upset with the team’s approach against lowly Brooklyn. “I think we are smelling ourselves a little bit. We haven’t done ... nothing. We were No. 1 in the West for a couple of weeks? That don’t mean nothing. At all. I feel like we took that for granted. We thought we were a lot better than we really are. We got to continue to get better and have respect for the game.” Jordan failed to reach double digits on the boards in three of the previous five games before Tuesday’s stellar showing.
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS (13-3): Shooting guard J.R. Smith is averaging three points on 3-of-29 shooting during a miserable three-game funk, and he came under fire for delivering an in-game hug to Milwaukee’s Jason Terry, which led to an easy hoop for the Bucks. Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue termed it “an embarrassing moment” and said he discussed it with Smith on Wednesday and that both coach and player are moving on. “I’ve had mental errors before while not shooting the ball well and while shooting the ball well, and vice versa,” Smith told reporters. “So I can’t compound one on top of the other. It’s just a matter of getting out of the groove of shooting bad and just staying more locked in.”
1. The Cavaliers won the past four meetings by an average of 13.3 points and prevailed in 21 of the last 27.
2. Los Angeles backup SG Jamal Crawford is 13-of-39 shooting during the three-game skid.
3. Cleveland PF Kevin Love scored just 13 points on 3-of-10 shooting on Tuesday after averaging 30.7 points over the previous three games.
PREDICTION: Cavaliers 122, Clippers 111