Clippers-Cavaliers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 01, 2013
The Los Angeles Clippers are one of the top road teams in the NBA. Whether that will help the Pacific Division leaders win their first game in Cleveland in more than a decade remains to be seen. Los Angeles will try to end a 10-game road losing streak in this series on Friday night when the improving Cavs could be without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving for a third consecutive game. With Thursday's 99-91 victory over Central Division-leading Indiana, which was 24-5 at home, the Clippers (42-18) improved to 19-12 on the road. Los Angeles is on the verge of winning 20 away from home for the first time since going 20-21 seven seasons ago, but the team is well aware of its struggles against Cleveland (20-38), winner of 13 of 15 in this series following a 108-101 victory at Staples Center on Nov. 5. "It's going to be a tough game in Cleveland," said point guard Chris Paul, who scored the team's final eight points on Thursday to finish with 29 in the Clippers' fourth straight road win. "They did (beat us earlier this year) and they beat us last year (99-92 on Feb. 8) in Cleveland." Before kicking off a stretch of seven of nine at home on Sunday versus Oklahoma City, the Clippers - winners of seven of eight - will try to record their first victory at Cleveland since March. 10, 2002. Slowing down Dion Waiters, who hit a season-high seven 3-pointers and scored a team-best 28 points on Nov. 5, could help Los Angeles get the job done. Waiters, the league's second-highest rookie scorer with 14.8 points per game, has totaled 48 with Irving out the last two games - wins over Chicago and Toronto. Waiters is averaging 20.3 points over the last six contests, with the Cavs' only losses during this stretch coming against the NBA's top two teams, San Antonio and Miami, and by a total of five points. "He understands what he has to do when Kyrie is not there, because we asked him to do a little bit more with the ball," coach Byron Scott said. The Cavaliers' bench has also been a big help, outscoring opponents' reserves by an average of 19.0 points over the last four games. That production helped Cleveland finish 7-5 in February - its first winning month since March 2010 when LeBron James was still with the team. "I think we've got a taste of (winnings) now and understand how hard it is and how much work goes into it," forward Luke Walton said. The Cavs will need that same effort down low against Blake Griffin, who is averaging 26.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in four games versus Cleveland after scoring 20 with six boards on Nov. 5. Griffin, though, has been hampered by a bursa sac problem in his right elbow, and he needed it checked by trainers on Thursday after crashing to the floor. Even if that slows the All-Star forward, the Cavs have to find a way to contain Paul. The All-Star Game MVP is shooting 65.0 percent from the field and averaging 24.8 points with 9.8 assists during the Clippers' four-game road winning streak over East foes. "Best point guard in the universe right now,'' Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, who scored 23 points on Thursday after missing Tuesday's win over Charlotte due to the birth of his daughter, is the league's best bench scorer with 16.8 per game. He hit four 3-pointers and scored 19 points in the first matchup with Cleveland this season.
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