The blowout began over breakfast.
As the Clippers ate Sunday morning and tried moving on from their 27-point loss from the previous night in Minnesota, new forward Marcus Morris approached center Ivica Zubac. Morris had been on the roster for all of three days, following a trade from New York, and he had questions.
“He came up and asked me what kind of pass I like,” Zubac said. “I asked him, does he like coming off [screens] left or right? So when I’m running up and setting the screen, I can flip the pick whatever way he likes.
“Little things like that can really help, because we’ve never played together.”
Whatever else was shared between Morris and his teammates, he appeared more than comfortable within his new surroundings while making his debut less than 12 hours later. Because of it, the Clippers played like they’d known one another for weeks en route to a 133-92 detonation of the Cleveland Cavaliers inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
The Cavaliers (13-40) own the Eastern Conference’s worst record and Sunday’s loss was their 12th consecutive at home. And yet, the Clippers had struggled mightily only 24 hours earlier, allowing a woeful Minnesota team to drill 26 three-pointers and snap a 13-game losing streak. After that loss, coach Doc Rivers called the team’s effort into question.
Fast forward one night, and the Clippers (37-16) made the largest home defeat in Cavaliers history appear effortless, leading wire to wire. The Clippers shot 57%, the Cavaliers 36%.
“We just made a lot of errors last night; I don’t think we were ready to play,” said Clippers guard Lou Williams, who scored a team-high 25 points while starting in place of the injured Patrick Beverley. “It was one of those games you can only blame your effort on and we just wanted to change that part of it, change our effort and the way we played.”
Morris scored his first Clippers basket on a jump shot from the right elbow of the free-throw line and went on to score 10 points with four rebounds, three steals, two assists and only one turnover in nearly 22 minutes.
He missed all four three-pointers he shot but found a rhythm in areas such as the mid-range and running pick-and-rolls with Zubac.
“Just make plays for everybody. Just make the game easier,” Morris said of handling the ball in the pick-and-roll. “I think that’s what we did tonight.”
The Clippers played without Kawhi Leonard, who rested the second night of a back-to-back, and Beverley has yet to join the team’s trip halfway through as he nurses an injured groin. The team had been 1-4 in games both missed leading up to Sunday, but with Williams scoring 25 points and Paul George 22, there was no drop-off down two starters.
Morris promised that he would fit right in and lived up to it.
“He will make what we’re running better because of his ability to space the floor,” Rivers said. “He’s another guy you can’t help off of and that’s one of the things I thought our guys noticed right away.
“Lou and PG were like, ‘It’s amazing the room with just having one more shooter on the floor.’”
The difference between the teams was stark from the start. Zubac had two baskets, a block, an assist and a screen that freed George for a mid-range jump shot all within the first three minutes.
Then George took over, blending step-backs with isolations. Watching it all from the Clippers bench was assistant Tyronn Lue, who coached Cleveland to the 2016 NBA title before being fired six games into last season. He was welcomed with a tribute video early in the first quarter.
Cleveland was going through its own transition Sunday, as center Andre Drummond grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 19 points in his Cavaliers debut.
“I think we’re going to be a really good team,” Drummond said. “We just have to work out some kinks, obviously.”
The Clippers’ advantage was 15 after one quarter, 23 at halftime and unyielding throughout. A round of boos from the crowd began during the third quarter. Fans began leaving soon after.
“We were really mad about the loss last night,” Zubac said. “And we wanted to make it right.”
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