CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James had 22 points and 12 assists, J.R. Smith made six 3-pointers and the Cleveland Cavaliers took care of one of the Western Conference’s top teams, beating the Los Angeles Clippers 115-102 on Thursday night.
Kevin Love added 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Cavs, playing their first home game since being embarrassed in a 34-point loss to Golden State on Monday in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals. They bounced back with a win at Brooklyn on Wednesday, but the Nets aren’t the Clippers, who came in 11-1 in their past 12.
Kyrie Irving had 21 points for Cleveland, which has won 13 of 14 against Los Angeles.
Chris Paul scored 30 and J.J. Redick 17 for the Clippers. Los Angeles made only six 3-pointers after knocking down 22 on Monday against Houston. The Clippers were again without star forward Blake Griffin (torn quadriceps).
In the second half, Cleveland intentionally fouled Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan, who went just 6 of 15 from the line.
The Clippers trimmed a 16-point deficit to six in the fourth, but Love and Smith made two 3-pointers apiece in a span of 2:08 to put the Cavs back in control.
Unlike some Cleveland fans, James, who was voted to the All-Star team for the 12th time in 13 seasons, didn’t overreact to the ugly loss against Golden State. He chalked it up to a bad night and said the Cavs simply needed to get better.
And while they’re 0-3 against Golden State and San Antonio, the Cavs have been solid against everyone else.
With Cleveland leading 79-70 in the third and in a good rhythm offensively, coach David Blatt ordered James Jones to foul Jordan, who entered the game shooting only 42 percent from the free throw line.
Earlier, Blatt had said he didn’t particularly care for the “hacking” strategy, but he implemented it – and it worked.
Jones committed four fouls on Jordan in a span of 1:21. The Clippers’ big man made just 3 of 8 free throws and the Cavs stretched their lead to 88-72 when Jordan was called for goaltending on a short shot by James.
During his pregame news conference, Blatt was defensive about the criticism aimed at his team following Monday night’s blowout loss to the defending NBA champions.
“We didn’t get here right now by being a bad team or by having all these problems that suddenly surface when you have a bad game,” he said. “We work pretty hard to be in first place in our conference and with some very good wins under our belt and with players finally getting back and being healthy.
“Again, that guarantees nothing, but it shouldn’t be overlooked either. I don’t think it’s fair.”
Fair or not, the Cavs are under the microscope during a season in which anything shy of a league title will be viewed as failure.
Clippers: Griffin will also sit out Friday’s game in New York and Sunday’s against Toronto. His workouts have increased in their intensity of late and it’s possible he will return on Tuesday when the Clippers visit Indiana. … Coach Doc Rivers has experienced both sides of the Hack-a-player strategy. He’d like to see the NBA abolish it. “It’s bad for the league,” he said. “It looks bad.” … Redick came in shooting 50 percent (103 of 206) on 3-pointers. “That’s crazy,” Rivers said. “I had a 53 percent year from the free-throw line.”
Cavaliers: Irving (580,651) finished third in All-Star voting among East guards, trailing Miami’s Dwyane Wade (941,466) and Toronto’s Kyle Lowry (646,441), who overcame a 32,000-vote deficit to pass Irving in the final days of balloting. … Cleveland is in a stretch where it will play 10 of 13 games at home, where it is 16-2 this season. … Smith (1,564) passed Glen Rice (1,559) for 19th place on the career 3-point list.