CLEVELAND -- LeBron James knows the Cleveland Cavaliers will be in for quite the challenge tonight when they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Quicken Loans Arena for an inter-conference matchup in front of a national television audience.
At 14-5, the Clippers find themselves in third place in the entire Western Conference, just 2.5 games behind the front-running two-time conference champion Golden State Warriors and one game in back of the San Antonio Spurs for second.
And James attests much of that success is due to continuity.
“That’s part of the reason why everyone’s gotten off to such a great thus far, continuity,” James said following this morning’s shoot-around. “They brought in some great pieces in (Marreese) Speights and (Raymond) Felton.
“That helped their bench out, and they brought in Brandon Bass as well to help their bench out. I just think for the guys that have come back and been in the system for years now, they don’t have to learn. They just have to pick up kind of where they ended off at.”
With Chris Paul still running the offense from the point guard spot and dynamic players like guard Jamal Crawford, forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan surrounding him, the Clippers have averaged 108.6 points per game, the sixth-best total in the NBA.
Additionally, the Clippers have converted 46.2 percent of their attempts from the field, 37.2 percent of their looks from three-point range and better than 75 percent of their free throws. Also, L.A. has done a good job of not wasting possessions, averaging just 12.7 turnovers per game, the third-fewest of any team in the Western Conference.
“They’re a great team, and obviously, they have some dynamic players, great players, MVP candidates, multiple all-stars, defensive players of the year, a championship coach,” James said. “They have all the ingredients, but I’m not one to say this is the year they get over the hump or it’s not. That’s for them, and that’s for the season to be played out, but they have all the ingredients.”
But while the Clippers have continuity on their side, the Cavaliers have unity.
Even when they have an off day, the Cavaliers usually stay together as a team, including making a trip down Interstate 71 for last Saturday’s football game between Ohio State and the University of Michigan at Ohio Stadium, a game the Buckeyes won, 30-27, in double overtime.
“We just enjoy playing with one another,” James said. “Everything else is just extra credit. It’s just how the schedule has fallen for us to be able to support the Indians, support the Buckeyes. It’s been like that. We don’t do it for people to see what we’re doing and to get recognition.
“We do it out of pure support for those two programs. We’ve got a franchise and a program, but we’re always together. Nothing changes when the camera’s off of us.”
Also, the Cavaliers have a coach in Tyronn Lue, who keeps the temperament of the team even keel, no matter the circumstances.
“He’s the same coach from day one,” James said. “He’s the same as when he was an assistant. It’s just now, he has the ability to be the head coach. He’s the captain of this ship, and it’s up to us to go out, put the effort in every, single night. He gives us confidence. He just gives us steadiness. He’s calm and cool, and he’s sure of himself, so it just brings a lot of confidence to his players.”