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NBA scores 2015: Cavaliers earn 12th straight win, and 3 other things we learned

LeBron James' 23 points led Cleveland over the Clippers with ease.

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David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

If you only looked at the final score, you would never know just how thoroughly the Cleveland Cavaliers dismantled the Clippers on Thursday night. After all, a 105-94 win was 94-63 before a meaningless fourth quarter evened out the score.

These are the Cavaliers who were talked about in hushed tones before the season started. They've rattled off a 12-game winning streak that started on Jan. 15, and since that date, they have the NBA's best offense and second-best net rating. Their defense is top 10, too -- just for good measure.

Some of it has been the opposition, absolutely -- they've only played playoff teams five times during this streak. But the way they picked apart Los Angeles is terrifying. Cleveland got under L.A.'s skin -- the Clippers had four technical fouls in three minutes in the third quarter -- in a way that recalls memories of the exasperatingly good Miami Heat of the past four years, where LeBron James was the cog that moved the machine in perfect rhythm.

Indeed, if you're looking for a reason for Cleveland's turnaround, look no further than James. Somehow, he has quietly averaged 26.2 points, 7.4 assists and 5.5 rebounds on 49 percent shooting this season, and his numbers aren't much different in this 12-game win streak. But there's visibly less awkwardness on the court with his new teammates, who have figured out how to play around him.

Add in midseason additions like J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov, and the Cavaliers are no joke. Both showed their value in the blowout win, with Smith scoring 16 points on 10 shots and Mozgov falling just short of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds.

With games coming up against the Pacers and the Lakers, Cleveland has a good chance to break their franchise-record 13-game winning streak. The real scheduling fun will happen when the Cavaliers enter March, when a gauntlet of quality playoff opponents await. But if you ignore Cleveland now, it's not their fault; this streak is just a warning shot to the rest of the NBA.

3 other things we learned

Portland earns a quality win against Phoenix. Every Blazer starter scored between 11 and 20 points while taking between 10 and 18 shots. That's an impressively diverse offensive attack from Portland, who pulled away late against the Suns. At least Phoenix finally got through a miserable schedule without giving up too much ground on Oklahoma City behind them. Three wins in their last eight games might not sound impressive, but when you consider it was against Portland twice, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, Chicago, Golden State and Memphis, even Phoenix will take it.

What's wrong with the Wizards? On Monday, they scored 88 points and lost to the Hornets. On Thursday, they scored 87 points and lost to the Hornets again. They've dropped five in a row, and while it has been against tough competition (Phoenix, Toronto, Atlanta), it's still concerning to see from a playoff contender. One problem has been an inconsistent bench that can play well but often doesn't. Washington will come around, especially with a couple of easier home games upcoming, but the concerns are there.

Even without Dirk and Rondo, Dallas coasts past the Kings. After playing Golden State tough but ultimately losing on Wednesday, the Mavericks sat Dirk Nowitzki for the fourth time this season. They've followed the Spurs thinking with the 36-year-old future Hall of Famer, sitting him on some back-to-backs and generally limiting his limits whenever possible. While they still must compete in a brutal Western Conference, Dallas knows they're playing for the playoffs, and any chances to preserve his health is worthwhile.

Play of the Night

Gerald Henderson did a bad thing to notable rim defender Marcin Gortat.

3 fun things

Oops -- LeBron missed a dunk!

This poor Clippers fan had to watch his team get destroyed in Cleveland, so Doc Rivers apologized.

Robin Lopez got nutmegged.

Not fun: This comment towards a female referee wasn't cool at all, Chris Paul.

Final scores

Hornets 94, Wizards 87 (At the Hive recapBullets Forever recap)

Cavaliers 105, Clippers 94 (Fear the Sword recapClips Nation recap)

Mavericks 101, Kings 78 (Mavs Moneyball recapSactown Royalty recap)

Trail Blazers 108, Suns 87 (Blazer's Edge recapBright Side of the Sun recap)

★★★

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