LeBron James and Mo Williams had off nights in their latest game, and the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn't cut it against another Eastern Conference contender on the road.
A visit from the Los Angeles Clippers should be considerably less intimidating
It's been six weeks since the Clippers won away from home - a skid they'll look to end when they kick off a season-high seven-game Eastern road trip Friday against the Cavaliers, who will try to improve to 22-0 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Cleveland (35-9) entered Thursday's action with the league's best record, but has been unable to defeat any of the NBA's three other heavyweights - Boston, Orlando and the Los Angeles Lakers - away from home.
The Cavs dropped a close game in Boston on opening night and lost by 17 in Los Angeles 10 days ago, and Thursday's visit to central Florida also ended in disappointment as the Magic prevailed 99-88.
Williams, coming off a career-high 43 points in a win over Sacramento, scored just 12 and shot 4 of 15 from the field, while James followed up a triple-double by scoring 23 points. He shot 10-for-27, routinely clanging long jumpers.
"We missed a lot of easy shots,'' said James, who's averaging 29.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 10.0 assists in his last five games. "Me personally, I missed a lot of easy shots. Some teams, if you miss shots and don't make shots with them, they can get off to a big lead. They were able to break the lead open in the third quarter. ... The momentum shifted.''
Williams, who is averaging 25.4 points in his last five contests, has needed to step up offensively since starting center Zydrunas Ilgauskas went down with a fractured left ankle in late December.
Ilgauskas returned to practice earlier this week and had targeted the Orlando game as a possible return date, but coach Mike Brown held him out. Brown said there's a "pretty good chance" Ilgauskas, who's averaging 13.8 points and 7.1 rebounds, will play against the Clippers.
That's bad news for Los Angeles (10-35), which has dropped 17 of its last 19 games. The Clippers have been blown out by at least 20 points seven times in that stretch, including in each of their last two games.
Portland defeated them 113-88 on Monday. On Wednesday at home against Chicago, Los Angeles shot a woeful 36.0 percent overall, and scored just nine points in the third quarter of a 95-75 loss.
"This wasn't one of those good efforts. I was really disappointed,'' Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "We came out and laid an egg in the third quarter.''
The Clippers did get two of their best players back on the court Wednesday - Baron Davis (bruised tailbone) for the first time since December and Marcus Camby (sprained left ankle) for the first time since Jan. 17. Davis struggled, going 1-for-10 and scoring three points, while Camby chipped in six points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.
"It was definitely a frustrating loss for us, but we're starting to get guys back out there," said Camby, who leads Western Conference players with 13.6 rebounds per game. "I think we're out of synch as a team.''
The Clippers have lost seven consecutive road games by an average margin of 16.2 points, while the Cavs have won their 21 home contests by 16.0 points per game.
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