Cavaliers earn much needed win over Clippers

CLEVELAND – LeBron James did not lead the Cavaliers in scoring, rebounds, assists, dunks or anything vital.

And this time, it didn’t matter.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 16 points with a season-high 16 rebounds, Larry Hughes added 15 points and the Cavs hardly needed James in an easy 94-77 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night.

James scored 11 points – three above his season low and 15 below his average – and spent the first half of the fourth quarter watching as the scuffling Cavaliers, who came in just 4-8 since Jan. 16, won their fifth straight at home against the Clippers.

“Guys took advantage of what we had,” James said. “I didn’t struggle at all. I didn’t force anything. I took what was there. Defensively, we took care of business.”

Sasha Pavlovic added 16 points and Drew Gooden 13 for Cleveland, which held the Clippers to 35 percent shooting and without a field goal for a nearly nine-minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters.

“We’re trying to figure out ways to score and get stops when LeBron doesn’t have one of his normal nights,” Cavs coach Mike Brown said. “It’s kind of been by committee.”

Elton Brand led Los Angeles with 21 points and Shaun Livingston added 19 for the Clippers, who have dropped three in a row.

In the aftermath of a stinging loss to Detroit on Sunday, both James and Hughes said the Cavaliers should be running more, their argument being the team is better suited for an up-tempo offensive game than the slowdown style preferred by Brown, who preaches defense first.

The Cavs pushed the action when they could, attacking the rim when the opportunity was there.

“It’s no secret that I like to play that way,” Hughes said. “I like to get up and run. So whenever we can get out and attack a team from start to finish, I think it works best in our favor.”

While there was no drastic change in their offense, the Cavaliers did do something different: They made a few more free throws, going 21-of-28 (75 percent) from the line. Cleveland has been the NBA’s worst free-throw shooting team all season and came in making just 68 percent of its attempts.

Leading by 11 at halftime and 13 after three quarters, the Cavaliers pushed their lead to 21 with 5:15 remaining when James drilled a 3-pointer.

With upcoming games later this week against Miami and the Los Angeles Lakers, the Cavs, now 7-1 at home against Western Conference teams, needed a relaxing night and the Clippers seemed only too willing to give them one.

Playing the second game of a back-to-back after losing in New York on Tuesday, the Clippers had early energy and then faded.