The Clippers (2-1) have an opportunity to bounce back from their first loss of the season Monday night at Staples Center against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Asked after shoot-around if the Clippers still have a bitter taste in their mouth following a 114-110 loss to Golden State two nights earlier, point guard Chris Paul said: “No question.”
“But we still have to move on. We know we’ve got a great team coming in here tonight that doesn’t care who we are.”
The Cavaliers (1-2) enter their first matchup against a Western Conference team on a two-game losing streak, including a dramatic loss at the buzzer to the Milwaukee Bucks Saturday. Still, Paul, who is averaging 12.7 assists through three games, said he knows Cleveland will play well together.
“I’ve watched a few of their games already and they just play hard,” Paul said. “When you have somebody like Kyrie [Irving] leading the team, you are always going to have that confidence.”
Caron Butler added: “Obviously, we watched film and had a chance to get our legs back under us on the day off and get prepared for our next challenge tonight.”
LAST TIME OUT
Warriors 114, Clippers 110: With the Warriors missing Andrew Bogut, who is being held out of the second night of back-to-backs as he nurses his surgically-repaired ankle back to full strength, and forward Brandon Rush (torn ACL), the Clippers seemed poised for their third consecutive win to open the season. But Golden State built a 14-point lead on two separate occasions and held off a late charge by the Clippers after Paul was whistled for a charging call on a game-tying left-handed layup.
“I thought once we got going in the second half, the guys were fighting hard and we had our opportunities,” Del Negro said. “We tied the score, but having used so much energy to get to that point, we weren’t able to convert.”
Paul and Crawford led the Clippers with 27 points each and Paul added 10 assists for his third double-double in as many games. Blake Griffin had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Caron Butler scored 16 of his 20 points in the third quarter. There were 91 combined free throws in the game and 10 technical fouls (two on defensive 3-second violations).
Bucks 105, Cavaliers 102: The visiting Cavaliers got the second monster game of the season from Anderson Varejao (20 points and 17 rebounds), but Brandon Jennings nailed a tie-breaking 3-pointer from straightaway at the buzzer to send Cleveland to its second loss in a row. Jennings’ shot came 0.7 seconds after Kyrie Irving drew the game even with a tough layup in traffic. Irving finished with a team-high 27 points and seven assists.
Chris Paul vs. Kyrie Irving: No young point guard’s game may more closely resemble the Clippers’ superstar than Irving, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick. He is a quick, tough, and can score and distribute the basketball. Both players are from ACC schools and came into the league as immediate starters (and leaders) for their respective teams under head coach Byron Scott.
“Kyrie is somebody who is a star in this league if you ask me,” Paul said. “He’s one of those dynamic players that don’t come around too often.
Paul has known Irving since the Cavaliers guard was in high school, played with him in a charity game during the lockout and competed against him this summer when Irving was a member of the USA Select team that scrimmaged against Team USA in Las Vegas. Still, Monday night will be the first NBA matchup between the two. In the Clippers’ only meeting with the Cavaliers last season, a 99-92 loss in Cleveland, Irving sat out with a concussion.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Rebounding: It is just three games into the season and two came against elite rebounding teams (the Grizzlies and Lakers), but the Clippers are pulling down just 36.3 rebounds per game. They were out-rebounded by 15 in Saturday’s loss to Golden State, including a 16-7 disadvantage on the offensive glass. Against the Cavaliers, neutralizing Varejao will be a primary objective. In three games the veteran center is averaging 15.0 boards, including a 23 in an opening-night victory over the Wizards.
“We’ve just got to keep [Varejao] off the glass,” Butler said. “We’ve got the athleticism and the big bodies to do so. It’s going to be a collective effort.
“Protect the paint, rebound the ball, pursue the ball [are points of emphasis]. You don’t want to rely on Blake and [DeAndre Jordan] to get every rebound. Even though they’re so athletic and huge, we’ve got to get in there and help them.”
Blake Griffin: Griffin has the third highest scoring average of his career in three games against Cleveland (29.0 points per game). He’s also pulled down 12.0 rebounds. On Monday he will likely be matched up with second-year forward Tristan Thompson.
In three games, Griffin has scored 15.0 points with 8.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals, but is shooting just 37.8% from the field.
The Clippers have lost 10 of their last 11 games to the Cavaliers and two of three since LeBron James departed Cleveland for Miami… Crawford and Matt Barnes were both originally drafted by the Cavaliers and traded on draft day… Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott was Paul’s coach for his first five seasons in the NBA when Paul was with the New Orleans Hornets. “I know what his team’s play like because I used to play for him,” Paul said… Rookie Dion Waiters scored 13 points in 29 minutes against the Bucks Saturday for Cleveland… Jamal Crawford is already making his case for Sixth Man of the Year. Through three games he’s averaging 25.7 points off the bench. His 77 total points is the most points scored off the bench in the first three games of the NBA season since Cedric Ceballos has 83 in 1999.
Cleveland: None; Clippers: Grant Hill (knee), Trey Thompkins (knee) and Chauncey Billups (Achilles) are out.