Reporting from Cleveland — The upside of the final stretch of the Clippers' season-long, eight-game trip is that it includes no more last-place teams.
On the flip side, up next is Cleveland, the team with the third-best home record in the NBA.
Might a game tonight against the Eastern Conference leaders be just what the Clippers need to break out of their confounding habit of struggling against league lightweights?
"The evidence is there," forward Rasual Butler said Saturday. "We play totally different against the more elite teams like the Lakers, Boston, Cleveland. To come out and play the way we played the last couple of nights, it's not the same team."
Before the Clippers descended on their respective cities, the New Jersey Nets had lost 11 consecutive games and the Minnesota Timberwolves had lost five games in a row. But there's nothing like a game against the Clippers to send fans home happy.
The Clippers fell behind by 16 points in the early going against the Nets -- at one point prompting a Philadelphia 76ers scout seated with the media to say the Clippers "should be ashamed of themselves" -- and 23 against the Timberwolves, giving them little margin for error on the way to two defeats.
"Those are two games that we felt like we should have won but we didn't," Butler said, "so hopefully we come out with a little bit better focus" against the Cavaliers.
Coach Mike Dunleavy said a trip of this length requires three victories to be considered somewhat successful. With the Clippers off to a 1-4 start, they would need to win two of three against Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta to meet that criteria.
They do talk, right?
Dunleavy didn't seem to get where Baron Davis was going when the point guard said Friday that the Clippers needed to be more "free-flowing" on offense to become a good team.
"Free-flowing teams are teams that play out of strictly a passing game or kind of a pick-and-roll set," Dunleavy said. "We have that in our arsenal, but honestly none of those teams have ever gone past the first round [of the playoffs]. They've never won a championship.
"You have to have a good mix of a low-post game and a pick-and-roll game and a game that pushes it up and down the floor, and that starts with your defense, getting stops."
Dunleavy said the Clippers' offense was hindered against Minnesota primarily by the absence of center Chris Kaman, sidelined because of a sprained left ankle. The Clippers are 0-5 this season without Kaman.
Kaman remains questionable for tonight's game.
Time to meet
Several Clippers said the players-only meeting called by Davis on Friday was productive even though it didn't result in a victory against Minnesota.
"It's always good to have team meetings and see what guys are thinking and try to get everybody on the same page," Butler said.
Said guard Eric Gordon: "We should always have talks like this. . . . We should do it more often."