The Los Angeles Lakers did not lead the Cleveland Cavaliers until early in the second half as their bench led a third quarter run that helped them secure a 128-99 victory for their ninth consecutive win.
Los Angeles started slow, trailing by as much as thirteen in the first half. They finished the first half trailing 47-48 and shooting 2-of-13 from three-point. However, the Lakers 81 points, the most by any franchise since 1987, in the second half helped them pull away.
“The first half defensively was probably the most disappointing part of the night.” Vogel said after the Lakers turnaround in the second half for a win. “Our attention to detail defensively in the first half was very poor… I thought we did a better job of that in the third.”
Lakers Forward LeBron James also came up big in the third. James finished with 31 points, 8 assists and 2 rebounds in 33 minutes against the Cavs, the franchise that drafted him 2003.
James returned to the starting lineup versus Cleveland after missing the last game versus the Thunder with flu-like illnesses. James played 11 seasons with the Cavaliers, over two stints.
However, Anthony Davis (Butt Contusion) and Rajon Rondo (Finger) both sat out the game nursing day-to-day injuries.
“Everyone has to chip in offensively… ” James told the media about trying to replace Davis’ scoring efforts. “That’s basically what it is for all of us, not just myself.”
Twenty-three of James’ 31 points came in the second half as he picked up the scoring slack for Davis.
“He is always in attack mode but probably a little bit more when A.D. is out,” Vogel said after James performance without Davis. “He’s gonna do whatever it takes to win.”
Vogel said LeBron will also look to get his teammates involved if that is necessary to help the team win. James picked up the slack facilitating without Rondo versus the Cavs too. In the first half, James third assist of the night surpassed Isaiah Thomas for the 8th spot on the NBA’s All-Time career assist board.
Guard Avery Bradley returned versus the Cavs too. Bradley started the game scoring the Lakers first five points. He finished with 12 points in 21 minutes.
Ultimately, the 37-22 run in the third quarter gave the Lakers a 14-point lead entering the fourth. The Lakers continued adding to that lead with their bench. Their bench outscored Cleveland 60-14 over the course of the game and they shot 9-of-17 from deep in the second half.
L.A. came out the intermission hot taking their first lead at 49-48 thanks to a shot from Danny Green. Green finished with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting along with 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 23 minutes
Dwight Howard finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds in 25 minutes. He was a big reason why L.A. outscored Cleveland to 68 points to 50 points in the paint.
“I’m just grateful. I don’t look at the stat sheet, I don’t look at anything, I’m just happy to be out their playing basketball.” Howard said about his personal performance. “Playing here in L.A. has been such a blessing for me and I cherish every moment of it.”
Howard said everyone on the bench brings something to the team which makes everyone play harder.
“When everyone is hungry get out the way,” Howard said about the team’s bench performance.
Also off the bench, Alex Caruso chipped in 10 points and 6 assists in 22 minutes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also added 9 points and 5 assists too.
The rest of the starting lineup included 11 points and three rebounds from Kyle Kuzma and JaVale McGee added four points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in 23 minutes.
Otherwise, Cleveland finished with all their starters in double-digit scoring. Cavaliers head coach John Bellein said he loved his team’s effort in the first half. However, two turnovers to start the second got the momentum rolling for the Lakers.
“When the momentum began to swing, we couldn’t stop it,” Bellein said after his team’s loss “LeBron took a lot of matters into his own hands as he has for years and we didn’t have answers for some of that.”
Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love both registered double-doubles. Thompson had 17 points and 10 rebounds while Love finished with 21 points and 11 assists.
“They just keep coming at you,” Love said after the game.
Cleveland’s young backcourt also gave the Lakers some trouble. Cavs rookie guard Darius Garland also added 16 points along with 2 rebounds and 4 assists. Also in the backcourt, Collin Sexton scored 16 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds.
The Cavaliers play the Clippers Jan. 14 while the Lakers can win their tenth-straight versus the Magic on Jan. 15 at Staples Center.
Nonetheless, the Lakers head coach is not going to rest on a big win.
“Doing it for small stretches of the season don’t really matter,” Vogel said about his team’s success in the nine game stretch. “We gotta be able to do it throughout 82 and into the playoffs.
More Game Notes:
The Lakers never led in the first quarter. Their first five points came via Bradley. He and James combined for the team’s first nine points. Los Angeles trailed by as much as 11 in the first quarter. A Kyle Kuzma three cut the the deficit to six as the Lakers trailed 27-21 at the end first.
A Jared Dudley 3-pointer before the seven-minute mark gave the Lakers 30-39 disadvantage after they trailed by as much as 14 in the second quarter. Dudley would follow a Cavs miss with another layup to cut the lead to seven.
Kyle Kuzma’s bucket at the three-minute mark in the second brought the Lakers within four. The Cavs would answer with a Tristan Thompson dunk but LeBron James checked in the next possession and converted a layup to make it a four-point game again at 41-45.
Kuzma again brought the Lakers within one just after two minutes left in the second. He followed a missed Lakers three with his own layup that made the game 45-46. Unfortunately, Cleveland converted a dunk on the other end. The quarter ended with the Lakers trailing 47-48.
Los Angeles started the net period hot with a three from Danny Green. The took their first49-48 lead early in the third. LeBron added to that lead on the next possession.
By halfway through the third Los Angeles led by as much as ten at 66-56 thanks to LeBron James. The Lakers pushed their lead as far as 77-63 with less than two minutes left in the third.
Alex Caruso hit a three just before the end of the third to give the Lakers an 84-70 advantage. Los Angeles outscored Cleveland 37-22 in the 3rd which reversed an earlier 14-point deficit. The Lakers bench registered 31 points to Cleveland’s 8 points through three quarters.
The fourth was much of the same energy from the Lakers as they continued to add to their lead. LeBron James scored points in the fourth. A Quinn Cook three at the seven-minute mark in the fourth gave them a twenty-point, 101-81 advantage.
James left the game at the 5:25 minute mark in the fourth to a standing ovation as the Lakers led 106-84. The rest of the fourth quarter sprinkled some Dwight Howard and Alex Caruso highlights. the Lakers led by as much as 24 with 2:56 left in the fourth.
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