In every NBA season there are invariably going to be nights when a team is destined to lose.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were in that slot Saturday night as they swallowed an understandable, if not expected defeat, 102-90 at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Cavs didn't arrive at their hotel until 3 a.m. after a physically and emotionally taxing loss Friday night in Seattle, then got stuck in USC-UCLA football traffic on the way to the game and didn't arrive at the Staples Center until an hour before tipoff.
Plus they were facing a Clippers team lying in wait and seeking revenge, having been off since they lost to the Cavs last Wednesday in Cleveland.
It was obvious in the opening moments of the game as the Cavs limped out and made just one of their first 14 shots as the Clippers (11-5) galloped to a 20-4 lead. In essence, the two teams basically played the rest of the game even, though the Cavs cut the lead to eight points in the fourth quarter.
So, the stars weren't aligned, but the fact remains that it was the Cavs' (10-6) fourth loss in their past five games and their shortcomings continue to be exposed. Facing long odds on tired legs might earn sympathy, but their defense is simply underperforming.
LeBron James scored 30 points with six assists and five rebounds, another tidy offensive display. But his defense yet again didn't meet the requisite standard for the Cavs to prove they're a legitimate contender. After he gave up 26 to Rashard Lewis on Friday, Corey Maggette scored 24 with James mostly guarding him Saturday, shooting him glares and trash-talking much of the way.
That is not to put undue blame on the Cavs' star, without him it would've been much worse. He's just example No. 1. Overall, the Cavs continue to allow too many easy shots, either off simple pick-and-rolls and when the ball beats their weakside defense.
The Sonics shot 52 percent on Friday, the Clippers made 52 percent on Saturday and the beat just went on. There is almost no logical way to win road games with those numbers.
Clippers forward Elton Brand, like when he scored 33 points earlier in the week, had his way. Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas tried to force him to take jump shots, but he just took advantage of the space and made one after another, scoring 30 points.
Center Chris Kaman, perhaps trying to make up for his part in giving up 29 points to Ilgauskas on Wednesday and fouling out, played with more energy than any Cav. He pounded away around the basket, grabbing a career-high 19 rebounds with 12 points. Ilgauskas still got 20 points but was just 7-of-16 from the floor.
In all, the Cavs shot just 35 percent, the fourth time in the past five games they've failed to break 40 percent in regulation. A hot overtime against the Clippers Wednesday pushed them just over that barrier.
Ilgauskas and Seattle Supersonics Sonics forward Danny Fortson nearly came to blows Friday. It started in a scrum for a rebound in the second quarter when Fortson clocked Ilgauskas in the chin struggling for position on a rebound.
Later the pair were elbowing and shoving and Ilgauskas drew a technical foul when he frustratingly complained to officials. It boiled over in the third quarter when Fortson shoved Ilgauskas to the floor. LeBron James and Damon Jones stepped in and confronted Fortson, who was given two technicals and ejected.
"The guy was throwing elbows around, I got hit in the face three times," Ilgauskas said. "Nobody likes it when there are elbows flying around your head. He has 50 pounds on me, but we had a good battle."
Bosh bashes Raptors
Chris Bosh scored a season-high 29 points and Morris Peterson added 24 Saturday to lead the Toronto Raptors to their third win of the season and second road victory in two nights, 95-82 over New Jersey.
Playing without second-leading scorer Mike James, sidelined because of lower back soreness, Toronto improved to 3-15 and shed the dubious distinction of having the NBA's worst record. Atlanta, which lost to the Raptors on Friday night, is 2-13.
Jason Kidd led the Nets (7-9) with 17 points, and Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson had 15 apiece. Carter left the game midway through the third quarter after injuring his ankle, but returned later in the period and finished the game.
In other NBA action: Dallas 97, New Orleans 88; San Antonio 100, Philadelphia 91; Detroit 92, Chicago 79; Milwaukee 104, Orlando 84; Denver 101, Miami 99; Memphis 90, Houston 75.