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Cavaliers' kiddie corps runs past Clippers

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- On Friday, the Los Angeles Clippers had little trouble with the Los Angeles Lakers' star-studded, veteran lineup.

Three days later, the Clippers struggled against the Cleveland Cavaliers' young pups.

Cleveland's youthful corps rebounded from an early deficit to trip the Clippers 108-101 Monday night at Staples Center.

Cavaliers guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters and forward Tyler Zeller combined for 67 points, including 33 in the second half, coming alive in a spirited back-and-forth fourth quarter.

Waiters had eight of his game-high 28 points, including two clutch 3-pointers, in the fourth quarter.

"It was awesome," Irving said of his rookie teammate. "It was awesome playing with the whole team, but when you have someone going like that, you just sit back and watch."

After Cleveland (2-2) maintained a small advantage for much of the second half, Clippers guard Jamal Crawford tied the game at 94 with 4:30 left before Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers on Cleveland's next two possessions.

Irving, last season's NBA Rookie of the Year, added a game-deciding 3-pointer with 28 seconds left to give the Cavaliers a six-point lead. He finished with 24 points.

Veteran center Anderson Varejao added 15 points and 15 rebounds for Cleveland. Zeller, another Cavaliers rookie, scored a career-high 15 points while grabbing seven rebounds.

"I thought they came of age the last game, and they're just getting better," Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said of his youngsters. "They're still getting used to each other. As much as they want to talk about how much they know each other since AAU, they still haven't played together that much."

Blake Griffin led the Clippers (2-2) with 20 points, but he had just six rebounds and committed five turnovers. Chris Paul added 18 points and nine assists for Los Angeles, and Crawford finished with 19 points and four turnovers. The Clippers committed a season-high 25 turnovers.

"We need to take care of the ball," Paul said. "We need to go back to the drawing board tomorrow, and we need to bring a better effort. That effort starts with our first group. An opposing team scored 30 points on us in the first quarter again, and we can't allow that to happen."

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro added, "We just seemed like we were rushing. They got 18 more shots at the basket than we did. I just thought we were trying to go too fast. We were chasing them."

The Cavaliers took control late in the first half, and they led 57-50 at the break.

Los Angeles had an eight-point advantage with just more than five minutes left in the first quarter, but the Cavaliers went on an 18-7 run to close the quarter before stretching the lead to seven late in the second.

Irving had 16 points in the first half on 50 percent shooting while adding three assists, and Waiters and Zeller combined for 18 points. Zeller did his damage off the bench, connecting on four of five shots for 10 points in 12 first-half minutes.

Cleveland controlled the tempo for much of the second quarter and finished the half with 14 assists and just seven turnovers.

Crawford continued his strong early-season play with a team-high nine first-half points, while Paul added eight and Griffin six in a relatively quiet half. Griffin was held at bay on the glass as well, totaling four rebounds in the first two quarters, while Varejao had nine first-half boards.

"It was more like 36 minutes," Crawford said of the Clippers' effort. "We started off really good, then hit a rough spot. It was almost a mirror image of the Golden State game. Whenever you do that, you have to play catch-up the rest of the game.

"It's almost like you have to play perfect to win."

Griffin said, "We need to lock in defensively and keep the intensity. I thought we did a good job right out of the gate but then kind of faltered a bit and let it go. We have to keep that intensity all four quarters, no matter who we're playing and no matter what the score is."

NOTES: Zeller took an elbow to the face early in the fourth quarter, and he didn't return to action. He was being evaluated by the team after the game. ... Clippers veterans Chauncey Billups (Achilles) and Grant Hill (knee) both missed the game. ... Cleveland won the team's lone matchup last season, 99-92, on Feb. 8. ... The Clippers have lost 14 of their past 18 meetings with the Cavaliers.

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