CLEVELAND (AP)—When LeBron James(notes) hit his fourth 3-pointer of the first quarter — from 30 feet away—Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy sat silent in his chair while the sold-out crowd roared around him.
There was little Dunleavy or his team could do to stop the Cleveland Cavaliers during their 114-89 win Sunday night.
James scored half of Cleveland’s 46 points in the first quarter and the streaking Cavaliers tied an NBA record with 11 3-pointers in the opening period of their season-best eighth straight victory.
The whole spectacle left Dunleavy stunned.
“I’ve got money that I’ll put them in the gym naked, nobody else on them, and they probably can’t make 11 out of 13 again from the same spots,” Dunleavy said. “They hit some shots in that first quarter that I know in 30 years of being in the NBA that I’ve (never) seen a team make.”
The 46 points tied a franchise mark for most in a quarter, and Cleveland’s 16 3-pointers fell one shy of the team record for a game.
The leader, as usual, was James. He made his first seven shots and finished with 32 points and 11 assists. His five 3-pointers in the first equaled the team’s mark for most by a player in a quarter.
The hotter James got, the deeper he started firing—shots he playfully refers to as “heat checks.” By the end of the first quarter, the Q was sizzling with a 46-20 Cleveland lead.
James heaved baskets from 30 and 28 feet as the Cavaliers made 3-pointers on seven consecutive possessions in the period.
“There’s no description of a player getting into the zone like that. It just happens,” James said. “And when it happens, everything you put up, you feel like it’s going in.”
Early on, that was true. Anderson Varejao(notes) appeared to toss an alley-oop to Jamario Moon(notes) in the second quarter, but ended up making the basket when his lob sailed high. Varejao had 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench.
The long-range shooting extended a 9-7 lead to 30-11 in a little more than three minutes. The Cavaliers shot 16 of 21 in the quarter, including 11 of 13 on 3-pointers.
Baron Davis(notes) had 30 points for the Clippers, who have dropped four straight and are 1-5 on this eight-game road trip. Los Angeles was again without center Chris Kaman(notes), who has missed consecutive games with a sprained left ankle. Eric Gordon(notes) had 12 points and DeAndre Jordan(notes) added 11 for Los Angeles.
“I’ve got some of the best shooters in the game on my team,” O’Neal said. “That was hot. It was a very impressive first quarter. Very impressive.”
The lead swelled to 31 late in the second before Los Angeles cut it to 92-81 with 6:52 left. The Cavs responded with two dunks from O’Neal and one by James to thwart any chance of a Clippers comeback.
Cleveland coach Mike Brown liked the first quarter shooting display, but was even more impressed by the way James commanded the huddle during timeouts in the second half. James and his teammates realized the momentum and the lead were slipping away, but fought to keep the margin in double figures. Brown said that is the type of self-coaching the Cavaliers will need to do in the postseason.
“We let the game slip away a little bit, and once we realized it, I didn’t have to say much,” Brown said. “The win is great, but for me, that was the most exciting part—listening to my players in the huddle. That gets the little hairs on my head standing straight up.”
NOTES: Cleveland’s 25-point win tied its largest margin of victory this year. … Cleveland leads the NBA with 38 wins. … James has scored at least 20 points in a quarter four times this year, including three times in the last 10 games. … Kaman, who leads the Clippers with 20.2 points per game and is second with 9.1 rebounds, participated in pregame warmups, but was inactive for the game. The Clippers are 0-6 without Kaman, who also missed Los Angeles’ 102-101 loss to Cleveland earlier in January.