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The Cavaliers two game win streak came crashing down at the hands of LeBron James and the red-hot Lakers in the second half on Monday night, but John Beilein’s young squad can get some Tinseltown redemption on Tuesday – taking on Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers.
On Monday night, the Wine & Gold got off to a solid start, leading by as many as 14 points in the first half and taking a one-point edge into the locker room. But the Lakers, who came into the contest having won eight straight, took the lead shortly after intermission and barely looked back from there – outscoring Cleveland, 81-51, over the final 24 minutes.
LeBron notched 23 of his 31 points after half, but the Cavaliers didn’t help themselves – committing 20 turnovers that led to 31 Lakers’ points.
The Clippers continue to battle the injury bug and have struggled of late, going just 7-6 over their last 13 games and falling six full games behind their roommate of sorts in the Pacific Division. Doc Rivers squad is coming off a lopsided loss to the Nuggets, who fell to the Cavs one night earlier in Denver.
After winning four straight in the series, Cleveland has dropped five of the last six – including a 24-point defeat here at Staples Center late last season.
On Monday, the Cavaliers took on one of the most charismatic superstars in the league – their old friend, LeBron James. On Tuesday, it’s Hollywood hoops’ other leading man – Kawhi Leonard, who prefers a low-key presence out of the limelight.
Leonard’s resume isn’t quite as loaded as LeBron’s, but it’s getting there. The reigning Finals MVP will look to add to it on Tuesday night at Staples Center.
The Clips’ leading scorer at 25.8ppg, Leonard ranks 9th in the league in scoring, is third in steals (1.9) and fifth in fourth quarter scoring (7.3). And he comes into Tuesday night’s contest on a tear – having posted back-to-back 30-point games against Golden State and Denver.
Arguably the Association’s best two-way player, Leonard has notched 13 20-point games, nine 30-point games and a 42-point outing in mid-December against the Timberwolves – the same night that Paul George (who’ll miss Tuesday’s outing with a sore hamstring) went off for 46.
The Cavaliers started out with Tristan Thompson checking LeBron on Monday night – and it initially threw the Lakers out of whack. But it’s unlikely to see No. 13 on Leonard too much on Tuesday.
Cleveland will still try to throw several looks at the three-time All-Star and two-time DPOY, and one of them will come from third-year forward Cedi Osman, who’s coming off a nice showing on Monday, canning a team-high four triples and finishing with 15 points and four boards overall.
Osman, who tallied 19 points the last time these teams met in L.A., has been rock-solid since mid-December – averaging 13.7ppg on 49 percent shooting, including 43 percent from deep, and tallying double-digits in every game but two over a 14-game stretch.
And he’ll have his hands full again on Tuesday night.
In terms of getting out of the frying pan and into the fire, the Wine & Gold’s second unit was outscored, 60-14, by the Lakers bench on Monday night – with Dwight Howard exploding for 21 points and 15 boards in just 24 minutes of work. On Tuesday, they’ll face a Clippers team that brings two of its top three scorers off the bench.
Not only are Montrezl Harrell (19.0ppg) and Lou Williams (18.6) two of L.A.’s top scorers, they’re the top two scoring reserves in the NBA.
Now in his third season in So-Cal, Harrell’s numbers and role have expanded in each of his three seasons. Coming off the bench in every game but two, Harrell has 12 20-point outings so far this year, four games of 30-plus.
Williams – named the NBA’s top Sixth Man in three of the last five seasons – has been a scoring machine for well over a decade and he comes into tonight’s contest having topped the 20-point plateau in each of his last five games, averaging an even 25.0 points per over that span.
The Cavaliers didn’t get much from their second unit on Monday – with John Henson leading the way with seven points on 3-of-5 shooting. With Larry Nance Jr. and Kevin Porter Jr. still on the shelf, they’ll again have to cobble things together on Tuesday.
Dante Exum returned to the rotation on Monday night and the Cavs will need him to be closer to his 28-point performance before the flu bug hit than the one point he produced against the Lakers.
Brandon Knight, who’s been solid to start the trip, Matthew Dellavedova, who handed out nine helpers against Detroit before the roadie, and Henson, who saw time on Monday after three DNPs, will need to up their game if the Cavs hope to score the upset on Tuesday night in L.A.