James and the Cavaliers look to bounce back from a heartbreaking loss Saturday night when they conclude a five-game trip against the Los Angeles Clippers, who try to avoid dropping four consecutive games for the first time since the first week of the season.
Cleveland (30-11) was on the verge of getting blown out by Utah on Thursday night, before James singlehandedly mounted a furious comeback for the Cavaliers.
James scored 20 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter, including 18 during a 22-4 run for the Cavs that turned a 12-point deficit with 4 minutes remaining into a six-point lead with 32.5 seconds left. Cleveland was unable to put the game away from the free-throw line, though, going 3 of 6 in the final 22 seconds.
“We lost the ballgame,” James said. “Me individually means nothing. Everything I did as an individual goes out the window.”
This has been the story of the road trip for the Cavs.
Cleveland has split its first four games of this trip despite James averaging 37.3 points on 55.4 percent shooting with 8.3 rebounds and 8.0 assists. The five-time All-Star averaged 28.7 points in Cleveland’s first 37 games.
James’ heroics didn’t go to waste in Cleveland’s last game against the Clippers, an 87-83 win at Los Angeles on March 10. The reigning league MVP finished with 32 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, his second triple-double in three games against the Clippers.
The Cavs have won six straight over Los Angeles since a 102-90 loss at the Staples Center on Dec. 3, 2005.
The Clippers (17-21) are coming off Friday’s 126-86 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, their most lopsided defeat of the season. It was the Clippers’ third straight loss following a season-high four-game winning streak.
Chris Kaman(notes) has sat out each game of Los Angeles’ skid with a sore back and his absence on the court is clearly noticeable. Strong defense keyed last week’s winning streak for the Clippers, but without Kaman clogging the lane, disrupting shots and grabbing rebounds, Los Angeles has been unable to stop anyone.
The Clippers, who haven’t lost four consecutive games since Oct. 27-31, are allowing an average of 112.7 points and grabbing an average of 1.3 fewer boards than their opponents in the last three after yielding an average of 89.5 points while outrebounding their opponents by an average of 9.0 in the previous four.
Kaman was listed as questionable Friday and his status for this game is uncertain.