Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Tuesday night contest at Cleveland, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Duhon, Bryant, World Peace, Hill and Howard
Cavs: K. Irving, D. Gibson, A. Gee, T. Thompson, A. Varejao
12:00 We had some tweaks to the line up, once again, with Jordan Hill getting the nod and Antawn Jamison coming off the bench for the road team. Pau Gasol was to miss his fifth consecutive game, and Steve Nash his 19th, the Lakers 1-3 since the Spaniard went out. Hill’s weakside D, energy and work on the glass were cited by Mike D’Antoni as reasons to start him. And while L.A. loses some of the floor spacing created by Jamison when out there with Howard, heading back to the bench allows Jamison to continue his role of aggressively looking for his shot right away, which was harder with the starters.
5:51 It was all square at 14 after the first six minutes, but immediately following a time out, Cleveland scored five straight points (Anderson Varejao dunk, Kyrie Irving three) to put the home team up five. L.A. is always going to get everybody’s best shot, and matching early energy has been a problem all year. They were OK in this one, but were easing into the game just a bit.
0:00 L.A. was probably fortunate to be down by only six points after committing eight turnovers to Cleveland’s one in the first quarter. Irving was a menace in pick and roll situations, but Kobe’s 5 of 6 shooting helped the Lakers hang around despite the sloppy play.
8:48 Turnovers were one familiar problem for the Lakers, as were missed free throws. Howard could have tied the game, but missed both to make the visitors just 6 for 14 on the early evening. The defense had improved though – and Cleveland’s second unit had very little offensive firepower – so a Meeks jumper put the Lakers up 31-30 moments later, a 7-1 run to start the quarter.
4:01 The early-season of the struggles continued, with 10 missed free throws, 10 turnovers and a lack of offensive rhythm combining with Irving and Varejao’s strong play to put the Lakers in a 44-33 hole. Mike D’Antoni could only call a 20-second time out.
0:00 Perhaps the low point of the season so far from a body language point for the Lakers came as the half closed and Cleveland took a 54-39 lead into the locker room. The Lakers committed 13 turnovers in a disjointed offensive half (four from Bryant, three on Howard) and saw Cleveland score 17 points off the miscues, missed 10 of the 18 free throws they took and shot 42.4 percent, only 12 points coming in the paint. Heads were down as the players and coaches came off the floor.
7:25 Finding themselves down by as many as 16, L.A. scored four straight to cut the margin to 57-45. But the frontcourt starters had combined to go just 5 of 20 at that point, Jordan Hill missing all five of his shots, mostly while being left alone from the perimeter. World Peace had a put-back layup for his third field goal, but Howard was just 2 for six, plus 7 of 14 from the charity stripe.
0:00 An excellent close to the quarter, spurred by Kobe, had L.A. suddenly within only three points … yet with all that momentum built, Cleveland barely hitting a shot in the period, the Lakers allowed Irving to pull-up for a three-pointer that beat the buzzer and kept the Cavs up 68-62. Cleveland had scored only 11 points until that triple.
8:36 Kobe was still cooking, trying to will the Lakers as his 13th field goal in 21 attempts gave the league’s leading scorer 31 points, and kept Cleveland’s lead at four. But L.A. had still yet to get over the hump. Case in point: the lead was cut to two when Howard hit two free throws (10 of 18 in the game), but Irving answered with an and-1 as the shot clock expired, L.A. trying not to show its frustration.
3:44 Howard hit 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to four, and Irving and World Peace exchanged three pointers … but the Cavs then scored yet again on screen/roll, this time Varejao getting a dunk off Irving’s feed to make it a 91-85 deficit for L.A. with three minutes to play. L.A., 9-12 coming in, was staring four games under .500 in the face.
0:00 It just wasn’t working for the Lakers, who had cut it to five and gotten a stop before MWP’s open three rimmed out. Varejao hit a jumper on the other end with 48 seconds left, then hit two free throws after Bryant’s three made it a three-point game. The final: Cavs 100, Lakers 94. The Lakers are indeed 9-13, as hard as it might be to believe even without Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Since Gasol went out with knee tendinitis, they’d won only once in five games, and were nine games behind the Western leaders in the loss column.