In a season of campaign slogans, "It's the defense, stupid" would work for the
They have been unable to stop anyone over the last week, a troublesome trend that popped up again Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan lingered in the backcourt to discuss a defensive breakdown after
That improved defense that had sparked their recent 10-game winning streak was nowhere to be found Thursday. The Cavaliers shot 50.6% and every starter scored in double figures.
The Clippers have allowed at least 110 points in three consecutive games. The only surprise is that they won one of them.
"Our defense has been unacceptable," Paul said.
Their offense wasn't much better against the Cavaliers. Paul scored 30 points and J.J. Redick had 17, but the rest of the Clippers starters combined for only 15 points. Paul Pierce went scoreless, missing all five of his shots.
It was the first time since Blake Griffin was sidelined late last month with a quadriceps injury that the Clippers looked a bit lost without their All-Star power forward.
LeBron James and J.R. Smith each scored 22 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers (30-11), who were the aggressors despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back after returning from Brooklyn.
"It was a joke with the 50-50 game tonight, how many loose balls they came up with," Paul said. "Every time they got it, they got a three."
The Clippers cut an 18-point deficit to six midway through the fourth quarter and had the ball, but Paul was called for traveling after a mixup with teammate Jamal Crawford near the sideline in which Paul fell into the laps of fans in the front row, with a scowl on his face. Kevin Love then made two three-pointers as part of an 11-1 run by the Cavaliers that ended the drama.
"We're not being solid, we're not being disciplined, we're not doing our principles," Paul said. "It's nothing on the coaches, it's just us."
Cleveland got a bit bold in the third quarter, intentionally fouling Jordan while holding a 10-point lead. It worked. Jordan made only three of eight free throws in that situation and the Cavaliers increased their lead to 14 because the Clippers couldn't get stops.
"That's the proper way to do it," Rivers said of intentionally fouling while ahead, "because it prevents you from making a run, especially a team like us that can score."
It was not the way the Clippers (27-15) wanted to enter the second half of their schedule or start a five-game trip that includes four more stops against teams with records of .500 or better. They hope to have Griffin back before the end of the trip.
In the meantime, they will continue to work on fixing their defense.
"We're not getting the same effort, not getting the same communication that we've had for two months now," Redick said. "We've proven we can do it, we just have to do it."
The Clippers' biggest highlight Thursday might have come from their official Twitter account, which mocked the Cleveland Browns' offense by tweeting footage of an outlet pass from Paul to Redick for a layup with the accompanying caption: "Not something you see often in Cleveland, a TD pass!"
Ultimately, the outcome felt more like a fumble for the Clippers.