Los Angeles (10-4) at Cleveland (9-4)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Cleveland, OH
Temp: 69° F
  • Game info: 7:00 pm EST Wed Nov 30, 2005
  • TV: FSW2, FSOH
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Maybe the Los Angeles Clippers shouldn’t want Sam Cassell to get healthy too quickly.

The veteran point guard, coming off a clutch performance despite being ill, hopes to be feeling a lot better going into a matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cassell played a key role in a 93-84 win at Minnesota on Tuesday night despite battling flu-like symptoms.

He hit a big 3-pointer down the stretch, helping stave off a furious rally by his former team. The Clippers led by 16 points with 10 minutes to play before Kevin Garnett and the Wolves responded with a 14-0 run.

Cassell, who missed the morning shootaround and did not start because he was sick, added a turnaround jumper to make the score 89-82 with 45 seconds to play.

“That was tough, I was tore up. I’m not going to lie,” Cassell said. “I told (coach Mike Dunleavy) when I came to the arena that I’m going to play. I was real dizzy out there, but this is a game we needed to win. We needed to win this game and we got it.”

Los Angeles had lost its previous two games, in which Cassell combined to shoot 9-for-28 (32 percent) while committing seven turnovers and handing out just six assists.

He had six assists on Tuesday to go with his 13 points on 5-of-11 shooting and did not commit a turnover.

The play of Cassell has been a key factor for the surprising Clippers, who are off to the best start in franchise history and lead the Pacific Division.

“I think he tries to help people out by explaining,” said Clippers swingman Corey Maggette, adding that Cassell’s biggest asset is his leadership. “He has to be the coach on the floor. He’s really been able to talk to the younger guys as well as the veterans. He’s never a negative guy.”

In the final year of his contract, Cassell is averaging 15.8 points and ranks sixth in the NBA with an average of 7.5 assists. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 2.97-to-1.

Last season, he was plagued by a right hamstring injury that limited him to a career-low 59 games and his average of 13.5 points was his lowest since the 1994-95 season.

Just as Los Angeles did on Tuesday, Cleveland is looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season.

The Cavaliers are coming off an 89-85 defeat at Minnesota despite getting a season-high 38 points from LeBron James.

Cleveland shot only 32 percent from the field and lost for the first time in seven home games. Drew Gooden had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Cleveland, which has dropped two straight following an eight-game winning streak.

James didn’t get much help from his teammates as Larry Hughes (3-for-16), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (2-for-10), Donyell Marshall (0-for-9) and Damon Jones (0-for-6)—a free-agent foursome that cost the Cavs $151 million in contracts this summer—combined for just 22 points.

“We missed shot after shot after shot, wide open shots,” James said. “There are going to be nights like that.”

STANDINGS (through Nov. 29): Clippers - 1st place, Pacific Division. Cavaliers - 2nd place (tied), 1 1/2 GB, Central Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Clippers - F Maggette, F Elton Brand, C Chris Kaman, G Cuttino Mobley, G Cassell. Cavaliers - F James, F Gooden, C Ilgauskas, G Eric Snow, G Hughes.

TEAM LEADERS: Clippers - Brand, 23.1 ppg and 10.5 rpg; Cassell, 7.2 apg. Cavaliers - James, 28.4 ppg and 4.2 apg; Gooden, 9.7 rpg.

2004-05 SEASON SERIES: 1-1.

LAST MEETING: March 30; Cavaliers, 94-84. At Cleveland, James hit two key 3-pointers down the stretch and scored 22 points to lead the Cavaliers.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Clippers - 5-3 on the road; Cavaliers - 6-1 at home.

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