LOS ANGELES — Chemistry is a three game winning streak.
That’s not Cavaliers’ coach David Blatt’s phrasing but that’s what he’s been hinting at lately — the defense and chemistry issues making headlines around the Cavaliers are a lot easier to discuss and fix after a team has racked up a few wins.
Like the ones the Cavaliers got the last two days.
After an entertaining win over the Lakers on Thursday, the Cavaliers leaned on the hot hands of stars Kyrie Irving (37 points on 12-of-18 shooting) and LeBron James (32 points) to beat the Clippers in a shootout 126-121 Friday night at Staples Center. That improves the Cavaliers to 21-20 on the season, back above .500.
We could pick apart how the Cavaliers played spotty defense and gave up 117.4 points per 100 possessions, how they turned the ball over 20 times (LeBron had nine), how they reverted to isolation, hero ball through much of the fourth quarter, but that misses the point. The Cavaliers aren’t in this for style points, they just needed wins and the Cavs got one against a good team Friday.
“This is a great step in the direction we’re trying to go,” LeBron said. “We’ve had some struggles, but I’m happy I’m able to go out and play at a high level to help our team win.”
The Cavaliers went 3-2 on a recent road trip, but Blatt saw it as better than that.
“There’s nothing I particularly like about losing, but in four of the five games we played pretty well,” Blatt said.
LeBron was doing LeBron things — he hit a key three with Matt Barnes almost in his jersey, for one, and he defended Chris Paul at times down the stretch — but it was Irving that was the difference in this one. With Kevin Love out resting a sore back Irving was making plays.
“I thought he made big plays under duress,” Blatt said of Irving, who hit 10-of-15 contested shots in the game. “It wasn’t like it was easy.”
With Love out Tristan Thompson stepped up with 24 points. The Cavaliers even played stretches of good defense in this one (as did the Clippers), but there was a lot of offensive firepower on the court Friday and it showed.
The Clippers were led by 34 points and 10 rebounds from Blake Griffin.
“We’ve got to take this momentum and get some wins,” Irving said.
“It’s easy for people to see the warts, to criticize…” Blatt said before listing the major injuries that the team has faced, including LeBron. “We went through some tough times but we’re staying together. And fighting.”
And picking up some needed wins.