Clippers chasing a ring; Cavs playing out the string
The Los Angeles Clippers continued their scorching stretch by opening a four-game road trip with a slim victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.
After a season-high six-game winning streak and sizzling 11-1 run ended Thursday with a 128-118 setback at NBA-best Milwaukee, Los Angeles (45-31) opens a four-game homestand against the lowly Cavaliers (19-57) on Saturday afternoon.
"Oh, it was a great trip," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I would have taken 3-1 before we left. But we were greedy and would have loved to have gotten them all. But, a 3-1 road trip out East. ... We go home (and) we have one road game left (at Golden State, April 7) for the rest of the season, which is nice. We get our legs under us. It'll be great."
The Clippers have a playoff spot wrapped up. Now, they're playing to finalize their seed, and Rivers also has a chance to save some wear and tear on his key veteran players heading into the second season.
Lou Williams, who averages team-bests totals in points (20.3) and assists (5.3), had 15 and six, respectively, in the 110-108 victory over Cleveland on March 22.
The 32-year-old shooting guard poured in 49 points and 14 assists over his following two games before sitting out against the Bucks for rest purposes.
Fellow guard Patrick Beverley, who excels on the defensive end, also rested on Thursday after sustaining a right hip pointer versus the Timberwolves.
"You really can't quantify what he does at times," Rivers said of the 30-year-old Beverley. "He gives us our heart and our soul, for sure."
Forward Danilo Gallinari led Los Angeles with 27 points in the previous encounter against Cleveland, including 11 in first quarter.
Rivers said he thinks this team has found its groove and is putting it all together for a run in the playoffs.
"In our minds, we're not done," he said.
The Cavaliers' defeat at the hands of the Clippers began their current losing skid, which extended to four after they dropped a 116-110 contest at San Antonio on Thursday to begin their five-game road trip.
"Down the stretch when we needed to execute, we just didn't," Cleveland coach Larry Drew said. "There was a lot of dribbling, a lot of pounding, but we didn't execute."
Forward Larry Nance Jr. agreed with Drew's assessment.
"We had some mental lapses toward the end of the game," Nance said, per Cleveland.com. "Defensive lapses. ATOs (after timeout plays). Coach drew up a play and (we) forgot the play, so just some mental errors. Things that you look back on and they make you realize that we could have -- maybe should have -- won this game."
Rookie guard Collin Sexton finished with a team-high 24 points, although he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Forward Kevin Love added 18 points in the loss to the Spurs, becoming the eighth player in NBA history to reach at least 12,000 points, 7,000 rebounds and 1,000 3-pointers.
Love and Sexton also fared well in the previous encounter with the Clippers, with Love scoring 22 points and Sexton joining guard Jordan Clarkson with 20.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 29, 2019