A first-half Lakers lead evaporates thanks to Cleveland’s new star shooting guard.
Your Los Angeles Lakers enjoyed an overpowering first-quarter burst, but it wasn’t enough to stave off the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers in an early game at Crypto.com Arena. Los Angeles ultimately fell 114-100. The Cavaliers have now won eight straight contests, bringing their record to 8-1. With the defeat, Los Angeles falls to a 2-7 record on the 2022-23 season.
Starting point guard Patrick Beverley was sidelined with a non-COVID-19 illness. Head coach brought Kendrick Nunn back into the rotation and gave him the starting nod. This comes as something of a surprise, as Nunn had been buried on Ham’s depth chart for the last week’s worth of games. Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN, Nunn had appeared in less than five total minutes across L.A.’s previous three contests.
The Lakers kicked things off with a 7-0 start to the first quarter, eventually building an eventual 21-9 lead midway through the frame.
In one of the standout plays during this early burst, Anthony Davis grabbed a rebound and dribbled the ball up the floor, feeding James for a tasty up-and-under:
Russell Westbrook once again got off to a hot-shooting start off the bench. He scored 10 points in his first three minutes of action, including two triples. Despite the strong shooting start, the 6’3″ point guard did have some sloppy turnovers. Westbrook has emerged as a fan favorite. He received the loudest cheers of any Laker when he first checked in for the game.
In that first half of that first quarter, The Crypt was treated to a totally engaged, scrambling Lakers defense.
Darvin Ham experimented with a fairly small all-bench closing quarter lineup featuring Westbrook, Austin Reaves, Matt Ryan, Juan Toscano-Anderson, and Wenyen Gabriel.
Cleveland closed the gap when shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV returned from the locker room due to a sore right wrist, but L.A. still led at the end of the period, 36-30. In his final attack of the quarter, Westbrook appeared to inadvertently bump Darius Garland with the basketball while forcing up a wild scoop shot (he missed).
The Cavaliers proceeded to close the gap throughout the second quarter, thanks in large part to the active play of All-Star guards Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell.
The MVP chants for Westbrook returned when he headed to the free-throw line during the second quarter. Perhaps because “Sixth Man of the Year” is just too darn long for an effective group chant?
Westbrook and Davis showed off their two-man game several times in the game’s early going, as with this pick-and-roll in the second quarter:
For the first half, Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting in the first half, along with eight rebounds, three assists and a block. Russell Westbrook had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting. LeBron James had 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting, along with four boards and three dimes. Garland and Mitchell led the way for Cleveland, scoring a combined 42 points on 12-of-18 shooting. The other Cavs players didn’t do much through the game’s first two quarters, scoring a combined 16 points.
Los Angeles led at the break, albeit not by much: 64-58. It’s always an ominous sign when one team is playing significantly better than its opponent — but the score remained close anyway.
Cleveland’s defense woke up in the second half. The Cavaliers outscored the Lakers 29-16 in the third period and ended the quarter leading 87-80.
In the fourth quarter, as has been the story a lot lately, Cleveland ran away with the game, outscoring Los Angeles 27-20.