It was not the most significant shot of the night, but somehow it was. Dwight Howard hit a triple and the Staples Center crowd erupted in euphoria. He left the game shortly after that, what else could he do?
Howard finished with 21 points in the season and 15 rebounds in the Lakers victory 128-99 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The victory, despite a mediocre start, ensured that the Lakers continued their unbeaten streak against teams with losing records. They have now improved to 33-7, while the Cavaliers fell to 12-28.
LeBron James scored 31 points on 12 of 16 shots with eight assists, and the game was in good hands against his former team when he left.
“With [Anthony Davis] outside, we’re missing 27 or 25 points per game, “James said.” Everyone has to intervene offensively. I don’t say cover that because you can’t cover what he does. Just try to improve your game a little more too. That’s basically what belongs to all of us, not only to myself. “
Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso and Howard each scored in double figures.
The Lakers received bad news for the game. Davis missed Monday’s game, making it the third straight game he missed after suffering a bruise on the buttocks against the New York Knicks on January 7.
They also lacked Rajon Rondo, who underwent an MRI exam on Monday that revealed an avulsion fracture of the unplaced flying plate on his right ring finger. The injury is sometimes called a stuck finger. Last year, Rondo had two surgeries on his right hand, one of them on his ring finger.
The Lakers played in Dallas on Friday and in Oklahoma City on Saturday, winning both games despite not having Davis for either. The next day, Davis and Rondo were part of a group of players who went to Green Bay for the Packers postseason game against the Seattle Seahawks. Davis, although a native of Chicago, has long been a fan of the Packers.
“They mentioned it to [general manager] Steal [Pelinka]Rob mentioned it to me and it’s a day off and it’s something we support, “Lakers coach Frank Vogel said of his trip. Vogel also said the Lakers medical team had no problems with the players who attended the game.
It was a more complete initial lineup than the Lakers had against the Thunder, when Davis, James and Green missed the game. On Monday against Cleveland, the Lakers had all their regular headlines, except Davis, for whom Kuzma started.
They faced an exaggerated but brave Cavaliers team.
Cleveland took a slow start of the Lakers to take a 10-point lead in the first. They reached only six at the end of the period, due to another buzz by Kuzma. The 21-foot jumper was Kuzma’s only attempt at seven shot attempts in the first quarter.
The second quarter was no friendlier to the Lakers and the Cavaliers extended their lead to 14. Jared Dudley’s consecutive scores reduced the lead to seven.
By halftime, the Lakers had reduced their deficit to one. At that point, no Laker had scored in two digits, although Howard had eight points and nine rebounds. Kevin Love scored 12 points in the first half, while Tristan Thompson added 13 for the Cavaliers, two of whom followed with a small look down and some junk conversations for James.
“I think we got a little slow. … a tough road trip, turning against a minor opponent with his record, and we just got out slow, “Kuzma said.” But good teams find a way to find out how to win, and we start the great second half. “
His energy changed after the break. Directed by James, they scored 37 points, with James making the four shots he tried and scoring nine points. Overall, the Lakers made 63.6% of their shots in the third quarter. They also beat the Cavaliers in the 13-0 fast breaks. They had zero fast break points in the first quarter.
Meanwhile, Cleveland committed seven turnovers in the third quarter, as they sank into an insurmountable hole.
“Defensively we had stops and we had a great pace,” said James, who beat Isiah Thomas for eighth place on the all-time attendance list. “Even when they scored, we just got the ball and we kept playing with a lot of rhythm. It allows us to enter our offense and … we are playing with a lot of balance and we were able to connect with some field goals. “