CLEVELAND: The Cleveland Cavaliers stretched their NBA winning streak in emphatic style on Thursday (Friday in Manila) with a 105-94 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Kevin Love scored 24 points and pulled down nine rebounds and LeBron James added 23 points and nine assists and the Cavs notched their 12th straight victory — one shy of the club record 13 in a row set during the 2009-10 campaign.
With the latest win, the Cavaliers seized first place in the Central division. They also looked like the title contenders they were expected to be when James opted to return to his home state this season after his stint with the Miami Heat.
The final score flattered the Clippers, who trailed by as many as 32 in the third quarter and 31 in the fourth before closing the gap against the Cleveland reserves.
“I think we had a concentrated effort on both ends,” said Love, who scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Cavaliers took charge early.
“I thought tonight on the defensive end we did a really good job of stepping it up and taking away the very good offense that they have.”
Jamal Crawford’s jumper pulled the Clippers within 22-18 late in the opening quarter, but Cleveland responded with a 15-4 scoring run that continued into the second frame to seize control.
“We had a really good game plan going against them on our home floor,” Love said.
James, who scored six points during the surge, capped it with back-to-back baskets.
He drove from the left wing for a two-handed dunk before racing past Blake Griffin from the right for a layup that put Cleveland up 37-22.
J.R. Smith drained four three-pointers and finished with 16 points and Timofey Mozgov chipped in a dozen points and nine rebounds for the Cavs.
Kyrie Irving had 16 points, five rebounds and five steals.
Smith’s three-pointer late in the first half staked the Cavs to a 65-42 advantage at the interval.
Cleveland, who out-rebounded the Clippers 52-43, took a 94-63 lead into the final quarter and cruised home, not before the frustrated Clippers were slapped with four technical fouls.
In addition to taking the Central division lead—one half-game ahead of Chicago—the Cavaliers are now tied for third overall in the Eastern Conference with the Washington Wizards, who suffered their fifth straight defeat on Thursday, 94-87 at Charlotte.
Cleveland will try to keep their streak going when they visit Indiana on Friday.