When it was over, after LeBron James and Kyrie Irving had run roughshod over the Clippers, Coach Doc Rivers lamented not having the right answers to slow down Cleveland’s dynamic duo.
The determination and purpose displayed by James and Irving was the driving force as Cleveland pulled out a 126-121 victory over the Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center.
They combined to score 69 points and hand out 12 assists. They combined to shoot 23 for 41 from the field.
And though the Clippers had six players score in double figures, it was the play of James and Irving that helped the Cavaliers get over the hump and complete a sweep of back-to-back games against the Clippers and Lakers.
James finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Irving scored 37 points on 12-for-18 shooting, making five of seven three-point attempts, and had five assists.
“Once Kyrie and LeBron got it going at the same time, we have to have a better answer,” Rivers said. “And that’s on us.”
Throw in Tristan Thompson’s 24 points and 12 rebounds in place of injured power forward Kevin Love (back), and the Cavaliers’ 55.4% shooting from the field, it was a tough night for the Clippers’ defense.
“They made a lot of shots,” Rivers said. “But we can be a better defensive team than that. . . . I’m sure they think they can too.”
Blake Griffin had 34 points and 10 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan had 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who made history Friday when Rivers became the first man to coach his son in an NBA game.
But neither Doc nor Austin Rivers could prevent the Clippers from falling into a 10-point hole in the fourth quarter after James drilled a three-pointer.
“They have a good team,” Griffin said. “A lot of guys made shots. A lot of guys did what they were supposed to do. I just think we’ve got to be better for 48 minutes. We were . . . good in stretches, but we’ve got to be better.”
The Clippers pulled to within four points and twice had an opportunity to get to within two, but Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes missed shots.
When Chris Paul (15 points, 14 assists) scored to bring L.A. to within 119-115, the door remained open for the Clippers.
That was until James threw an inbounds pass to Thompson, who scored down low while being fouled by J.J. Redick. Thompson made the free throw to complete the three-point play for a 122-115 Cavaliers lead with 46.4 seconds left.
The Clippers kept fighting, but Matthew Dellavedova made three of four free throws in the final few seconds to seal the game for Cleveland.
“I didn’t think we played very well offensively, as crazy as that sounds,” Rivers said. “With 121 points, I don’t think I’ve ever thought I would ever make that comment. But it was a tough game.”