Final Dime: Clippers 100, Cavaliers 92
Ramon Sessions finished with 18 points in Saturday's loss in L.A.
1. In this strange up-and-down season, the Cavaliers probably feel like they’ve seen everything. Then they got to Staples Center on Saturday morning.
About 90 minutes before tip-off, with most of the squad already in the building – (and several players already shooting around) – a man wielding a steak knife rushed through arena security and made it down to the playing floor, where he kept building security and LAPD at bay for over half an hour.
Officers tried to negotiate with the man, who, according to Staples Center general manager Lee Zeidman, told them to “back away or else you're going to get hurt.” Zeidman said the man was “talking a lot of gibberish, making a lot of veiled threats, and nobody could really understand him.”
About 20 minutes into the standoff, police fired beanbag pellets at the man as he made a move towards the tunnel. When he dropped the knife, officers swarmed him, placed him in cuffs and led him out of the arena.
Some players and coaches watched the scenario unfold on closed-caption monitors in the locker room.
The 12:30 p.m. start was pushed back five minutes while teams and building personnel regained their bearings.
The game, which almost seemed like an afterthought through two quarters, was a tight contest throughout. The Cavaliers led by three after one period and trailed by just four, 54-50, at the half.
Neither team could shake the other in the second half, but a controversial call with just under four minutes to play gave the Clippers just enough breathing space to hand the Cavaliers the 100-92 loss to round out their brief three-game West Coast junket.
Halfway through the fourth, Samardo Samuels canned a pair of free throws to get the Cavaliers to within four, 88-84. Both clubs exchanged baskets and minutes later, with Cleveland down seven, Blake Griffin was whistled for traveling. But referee Bill Spooner overruled the call, instead whistling Samuels for a blocking foul. Griffin hit both free throws to put L.A. up nine, 95-86, and the Clippers never lost momentum.
Griffin, the presumptive Rookie of the Year, led everyone with 30 points. But once again, J.J. Hickson battled him to a virtual draw.
Hickson paced the Cavaliers with 28 points and nine boards, going 12-for-18 from the floor with four assists. J.J. notched 18 of his 28 in the second half.
“Overall I thought the team did a great job, but it was J.J. who really kept us in the game during the fourth quarter,” praised Coach Scott. “J.J. got involved and tried to keep the Clippers off balance. But then the team started to get in to foul trouble and I think that’s what really hurt us.”
“These are the type of games where you learn from your mistakes,” added Hickson. “We’re going to go back to the drawing board and try to get better and see where we are as a team.”
Ramon Sessions followed up with 18 points and a team-high seven assists. Samardo Samuels notched 14 of his 17 points in the first quarter, going 6-for-9 from the floor before fouling out late in the fourth.
Daniel Gibson came off Byron Scott’s bench to net 10 points, but was just 4-of-12 from the floor, including 2-for-9 from beyond the arc.
As a team, the Wine and Gold shot just 20 percent from long-distance while the Clippers shot the deep ball at a 53 percent clip, led by Eric Gordon, who finished 6-of-10 from three-point range.
The Cavaliers return home to face the Orlando Magic on Monday night at The Q – the first game of a five-game homestand.
2. Once the Staples Center pregame situation was resolved peacefully, some Cavaliers had a few laughs before taking on the Clippers – including the Cavs head coach, who described Christian Eyenga’s reaction.
“(Christian)’s the one who told me he ran off the court,” joked Coach Scott. “They said the guy had a knife and Christian took off. Smart man – he understands ‘knife,’ I guess. I think that goes all the way to the Congo: ‘Knife’ means ‘get the hell out!’
3. Christian Eyenga gave his account after the game. "First of all, the cheerleaders yelled, 'He's got a gun! He's got a gun!' And I said; 'Whoa! Whoa!' Then they said, 'No he had a knife.' I don't know where he come from. I just started running."
Asked if he was scared, Christian joked: "I mean, it's America. If he says he has a gun and he's going to kill everybody. I just start running."
4. After rejoining the club on Wednesday night in Portland, Baron Davis was unable to go on Saturday against his old team – bothered by the back spasms that cut his night short against the Blazers.
5. After an abbreviated slump before heading West, Ramon Sessions had another solid showing and has now averaged 16.7 ppg over his last 20 contests.
6. Saturday was the first time the Cavaliers faced off against their former mates – Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Mo finished with 11 points and five assists. Jamario didn’t see action on Saturday afternoon, but stopped by the Cavaliers locker room postgame to say hello.
7. With Saturday’s loss, the Cavaliers winning streak against the Clippers was snapped at nine. Los Angeles hadn’t beaten the Cavaliers since January 2005. Cleveland’s current-best win streak is now against the Knicks, who they’ve topped on 11 straight occasions.
8. The Clippers seem to bring out the best in J.J. Hickson, who has averaged 27.5 points, 11.5 boards and four blocked shots in two games against L.A. this season.
9. After just a seven-point effort on Wednesday, Samardo Samuels returned to double-figure scoring and has now notched double-figures in every start but one. During the month of March, the former Louisville star has averaged 13.3 points and 6.6 boards per contest.
10. Saturday’s contest was the Cavaliers last Western Conference matchup of the season.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.