Even last year's addition of Chris Paul couldn't help the Los Angeles Clippers overcome their recent struggles against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now, maybe Jamal Crawford will be the difference.
Monday night will see a matchup between two of the league's early-season scoring leaders as Crawford and the Clippers host Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers, who have won 10 of the teams' last 11 meetings.
Despite coming off the bench in his first three games with the Clippers -- as he has for most of his career -- Crawford's 25.7 points per game rank among the league's top 10. Irving, the league's reigning rookie of the year, isn't far behind at 23.7 points per game.
But neither Crawford nor Irving could keep their respective teams from suffering bitter defeats on Saturday.
Crawford scored 20 against Golden State, becoming the first Clipper with 20 or more off the bench in three consecutive games since Mo Williams in January. Paul also scored a season-high 27, setting a franchise record with 19 consecutive free throws made in the contest, but Los Angeles' slow start proved costly in a 114-110 loss to the Warriors.
Cleveland was on the wrong end of a controversial finish after Irving's game-tying bucket with seven-tenths of a second left as Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings then hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to hand the Cavaliers a 105-102 loss. Officials used video replay to confirm Jennings got the shot off in time, but Cleveland coach Byron Scott said he thought the clock started late on the final play.
Despite his team's record dropping to 1-2, Scott was still pleased with the effort. Thirteen of Irving's 27 points came in the fourth quarter, when he led a 7-0 run to tie the score at 102.
"If we play that hard every game we give ourselves a chance to win," Scott told the team's official website. " ... We have to come out with that attitude every night. It doesn't guarantee that we win the game. But at least, it gives us a chance."
The Clippers (2-1) fell behind Golden State by 14 in the first quarter. Paul's only missed free throw blew an opportunity to tie in the final minute.
"We turned it on a little too late, and that's something we've got to learn from," said Blake Griffin, who had 19 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double.
"Adversity is going to come, and it's important to see how we respond to it."
Griffin has been a monster in his only three games against Cleveland, averaging 29.0 points and 12.0 rebounds, though the Clippers have gone 1-2. Last season, the Cavaliers didn't need Irving, who was out with a concussion when they defeated visiting Los Angeles 99-92 in their only meeting.
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