Clippers rally late, snap Cavaliers’ 8-game win streak

LOS ANGELES — Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has insisted in recent days that his team is trending in the right direction. There might have been a few missteps along the way, even a couple of stumbles, but he believes they are making progress even if recent results didn’t always show it.

But Monday’s 119-117 upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers showed how far the Clippers have come. They looked like a team that is starting to develop chemistry, finding the open man instead of taking contested shots and helping on defense.

“I think we’ve been doing some good things,” Lue said. “The first four or five games we were just talking about competing every single night, getting into the paint, making the right play. Over the last five games, I thought we’d been doing that. I thought we’ve been really competing.”

The Clippers competed until the final minutes, scoring eight consecutive points to pull within four, 112-108. Terance Mann then stole a pass and drove the court for a dunk. Norman Powell followed with a layup and was fouled. He made the free throw to tie the score at 112.

After Darius Garland missed a 25-footer that landed out of bounds, Paul George took the inbounds pass and drove in for a layup, getting fouled on the play to give the Clippers a 115-112 lead with 37 seconds left.

Holding a 117-115 lead, Reggie Jackson then took the inbounds pass, dashed around the court, and was fouled. He made two free throws with eight seconds left for a four-point lead.

The Cavs didn’t go away quietly, making the Clippers sweat until Kevin Love’s 78-footer at the buzzer hit the rim and bounced away.

Playing the second game of a back-to-back, the Clippers (6-5) stood up to the second-best team in the league, making it difficult for the Cavs (8-2) while snapping their eight-game winning streak. The Clippers overcame a double-digit deficit in the first quarter, improved their 3-point shooting from the previous night, and the second unit fueled a 7-0 run in the second quarter.

The Clippers followed their strong showing after pushing the Utah Jazz for three quarters on Sunday before losing by eight points.

But the Cavs weren’t looking to leave L.A. with a loss. Eventually, Cleveland, which defeated the Lakers a day earlier, did a better job bottling up Clippers center Ivica Zubac and took control of the defensive boards to go on a 14-4 run at the start of the fourth quarter for a 101-92 lead with 9:05 left.

With Goerge on the bench, the Clippers seemingly couldn’t find the basket in the final quarter. They missed short jumpers and a few 3-point attempts, enabling the Cavs to stay in command of the game.

George re-entered the game with 6:57 left, but even he struggled and neither he nor MarcusMorris Sr. scored in the final quarter until the final minute. George finished with 26 points. Morris Sr. had 20 points, Jackson had 18 and Mann added 14.

“Our guys are competing and they’re fighting and we’re trying to make the right play,” Lue said before the game. “And so that’s all you can ask for. Just continue to develop good habits on both sides of the basketball and we’ve been doing it as of late.”

The Clippers’ flaws were exposed during a three-game losing streak that had many questioning their ability to overcome Kawhi Leonard’s absence. Leonard has missed eight consecutive games after experiencing stiffness in his right surgically repaired knee. There is no timetable for his return.

George has stepped up and shouldered much of the load that enabled the Clippers to pull even at .500 with victories against Houston (twice) and San Antonio. George helped lead the team to a 3-1 record while averaging 32.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 2.3 steals.

George, who was named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week earlier on Monday, hit four 3-pointers in the first half, passing Lou Williams for fifth place on the Clippers’ all-time 3-point field goal list, and finished 5 for 11 from behind the arc.

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The Clippers met nearly every challenge the Cavs threw at them early. The Clippers closed a 12-point gap to trail 37-31 after the first quarter on the strength of their 3-point shooting. They were 8 for 33 from long range on Sunday but were 8 for 15 after one quarter on Monday.

The Clippers took a 47-46 lead on a 25-foot 3-pointer from Robert Covington, who played sparingly against Utah after missing four games while in the health and safety protocols. But the lead didn’t last long.

The Cavs regained the lead on a long 3-pointer by Kevin Love with 6:47 left in the first half. But the Clippers hung in. After Zubac scored from under the basket, George stole the ball and dished it off to Morris, whose short jumper tied the score going into halftime.

Donovan Mitchell hit eight 3-pointers while scoring 30 points to pace Cleveland, and former USC star Evan Mobley added a season-high 26 before fouling out in the final minute. Garland had 19 points and 12 assists, and Jarrett Allen added 10 points and a season-high 20 rebounds. Cleveland hadn’t lost since opening night in Toronto.

More to come on this story.

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