There are good reasons the Cavaliers have won 22 straight games at home this season. Of course, that LeBron James guy is certainly one of them. But Zydrunas Ilgauskas is another, underrated reason, and the Cavs had the big man back Friday night.
Ilgauskas scored 20 points with 11 rebounds in his first game in exactly one month because of a broken left ankle and James added 25 points as the Cavaliers picked up the 112-95 win.
Rookie Eric Gordon scored 27 for the Clippers, who stayed close for nearly three quarters before dropping their eighth straight road game as they began a seven-game trip. Los Angeles has lost 18 of 20.
The Cavs managed to go 9-4 while Ilgauskas was sidelined, but their offense wasn't nearly as efficient without one of its better outside shooters and main inside threats. Ilgauskas's presence alone opened the floor for James and Mo Williams. He also finished 10-of-16 in 28 minutes.
"We were a little unfortunate to catch them on a night they got Ilgauskas back," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "He certainly paid the rent tonight. His ability to make shots from the outside stretches your big guys out. "He's got really good range and gives them something they've been missing."
It was a game in large part decided beyond the arc. The Clippers, who made eight 3s in the first half, were within 89-83 in the fourth. The Clippers launched a season-high 28 threes in the game, making 11.
The Cavaliers tightened up their defense in the second half, holding the Clippers to 35 percent shooting, and 3-of-13 on 3s.
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With the Clippers within six in the fourth, Williams hit a 3-pointer and the Cavs scored a few easy baskets inside to pull away. Williams made 5-of-6 3-pointers and finished with 23 points for Cleveland. The Cavaliers made a season-high 14 3s.
The win earned Cavaliers coach Mike James the head coaching job at the All Star game for the East squad.