Welcome to Hollywood Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller. The Cleveland Cavaliers' two first-round selections in this year's NBA Draft made their first trip out west as members of the Cavaliers, and they did not disappoint under the spotlight. After playing well in the first three games of the season, these two had breakout games, as the Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Clippers for the 11th time in the last 12 meetings.
Waiters was especially impressive, scoring a game-high (also his career-high) 28 points, including 7-for-11 from three-point range. The first-year player showed no fear from long distance, as he took, and usually made, shot after shot from behind the three-point stripe, including two back-to-back threes after the Clippers had tied the game with just over four minutes left in the game.
This is what Cleveland was hoping to get from Waiters when they selected him with the number four overall pick. He struggled through both the NBA Summer League and the preseason, and doubts had begun to creep into fans minds as to how good he could be. While some of Waiters shots against Los Angeles may have been fortunate makes, it will be good for the young player's confidence to see the ball go in the hoop from downtown, especially on an opposition's floor.
Zeller also had his best game of his young career, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds, before leaving the game with just over five minutes left, due to an unintentional elbow on a rebound attempt. The 15 points was by far Zeller's best scoring output thus far, with his previous being eight against the Chicago Bulls. The seven rebounds tied his career high, which occurred in the last game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
While the rookies were a large part of a big win for the Cavaliers, there were some familiar faces that played their normal part. Both Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao continued their strong starts to the season. The second-year point guard scored 24 points and had 10 assists, while the big man kept pace with his league leading 15 rebounds per game by grabbing that amount, five offensive, and also scoring 15 points.
C.J. Miles, who had shot 4-for-22 to start the season, finally got out of his funk. He scored 10 points off the bench, including two fourth-quarter threes to help Cleveland hold off the Clippers. Alonzo Gee scored eight points and was active the whole game, playing defense on the smaller Chris Paul at times. Tristan Thompson had an all-around disappointing night, contributing one point and three turnovers, but did have eight rebounds.
The key to getting a victory going in to the game was to turn a usually careful Los Angeles team over, and Cleveland did that 25 times. While some of these were mistakes by the Clippers, many were steals or plays forced by tough Cavaliers' defense, which is a promising thing to see out of a group of mainly young player.
While Paul scored 17 points and had nine assists, the combination of Irving and Gee limited him from really going off in the game. Blake Griffin scored 20 points and has six rebounds, making it the first time this season that someone other than Jamal Crawford, who scored 19 off the bench, led Los Angeles in scoring.
This was the Clippers second loss of the season, and second in a row. Last game they never led, yet in this matchup, they got out to a quick start, scoring the first six points of the game. By halftime, though, Cleveland had built a 57-50 lead and did not trail the rest of the game.
While Los Angeles has now lost two in a row, this is still a very good, and surprising, win for the Cavaliers. It was hard fought, against a team that is going to be contending for the top spot in the Western Conference, and making a push toward the NBA Finals. While it is only one win, the coaching staff will look to build off the performance on Wednesday, when Cleveland travels to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors, the other team that best the Clippers.
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