December 15, 2017, 2:34 pm
The young Lakers played well in spurts compiling impressive stat lines and acquitting themselves well in the national spotlight with LeBron James and the Cavaliers. They led for significant periods of the game and held their own for the most part — simply committing too many turnovers and getting marginally outclassed in the second half.
The Lakers came out swinging — literally, as Brandon Ingram made contact with LeBron James’ head twice in the first half. Laker fans were wondering why the team was physically assaulting a key player in the upcoming free agent class while at the same time applauding the aggressive and competitive play of their young stars.
Los Angeles came out strong in the first quarter, leading most of the way and ending the period with a 26-24 advantage. Of particular note was the Lakers effort on the offensive glass where they held a 6-to-1 edge led by Larry Nance Jr. who had eight first quarter rebounds including four on the offensive glass. Ingram did everything in his power to right the wrong from the previous game playing aggressively from the onset and ending the quarter with five points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal. Lonzo Ball also stepped up to the plate with an impressive five first quarter assists to help lead the Lakers.
The second quarter was much of the same for the Lakers as the youthful players continued to exert their will on the game and play impressive basketball. Los Angeles led for the bulk of the frame including a nine-point lead at 37-28. However, Cleveland and their experience continued to whittle down the lead and eventually overcame the Lakers to the tune of a 63-60 halftime lead.
One particular embarrassing stretch for the Lakers centered around Brook Lopez who air balled a free throw as part of an 0-for-2 trip, was dunked on while doing his best imitation of a scarecrow and then blew an alley-oop dunk.
The Lakers played a competitive first half highlighted by their lack of miscues as they committed only five total turnovers. Los Angeles outshot the Cavs 49.1 percent to 46.9 percent and outrebounded them 28-to-22. It was an overall well played half as the only clear downside was their inability to convert 3-pointers as they made only 3-of-14 for a 21.4 percent clip.
The second half was a different ballgame as Cleveland simply outclassed Los Angeles. The Cavs began the half with a 4-0 run and never looked back. The Lakers started committing turnovers in bunches and simply could not overcome their own shortcomings. One particularly frustrating stretch saw Ball commit consecutive turnovers leading to Jose Calderon knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers, the end of which resulted in a 78-69 advantage for Cleveland. The Lakers committed eight turnovers in the third quarter alone.
Ingram and Ball made mistakes but were very impressive overall on this national stage. Ingram ended the third quarter with 26 points, five rebounds, five assists and one steal, Ball made spectacular plays as well as several costly mistakes as exemplified by his stat line of 13 points, eight assists , six rebounds, two steals, six turnovers and a minus-10 rating.
The Lakers remained within striking distance throughout the fourth quarter without ever truly posing a threat to the Cavaliers. They got as close as four points with a 6-0 run to bring the game to 102-98. Again the Lakers would be their own worst enemy committing multiple turnovers to spark a 7-0 Cavs run that the Lakers would never recover from.
The final point of interest for the Lakers was after the final whistle when James covered his mouth in order to have an extended private talk with Ball. Laker fans can only imagine that the conversation was a complimentary discussion regarding Ball’s performance, a plan to team up in the future and perhaps a positive way in which Ball could impress upon his father to quiet down, allowing James to join the Los Angeles free of the scrutiny of the elder Ball.
James finished the game with his 59th career triple-double accruing 25 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and two blocks with a game leading plus-14 rating. He was joined by teammate Kevin Love, who hit many clutch shots, while compiling an impressive 28 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. Love was also extremely efficient shooting 9-of-15 from the floor, 4-of-6 from 3-point range and 6-of-6 from the free throw line. Cleveland also received a huge contribution from former Laker Jose Calderon who ended with 17 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals while shooting an extremely efficient 6-of-9 from the floor and 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
The Lakers were led by Ingram who was on a mission to make up for his sub-par performance in the last game ending with 26 points, six assists, six rebounds and one steal. He was joined by rookie teammate Ball who finished with 13 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Neither one of them was able to contribute significantly in the fourth quarter.
Two other rookies who were major contributors on the evening for Los Angeles were Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma. Hart, earning a start for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as he missed the game for personal reasons, was able to contribute 11 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. Kuzma was his usual stellar self (that statement is a testament to how amazing his rookie season has been) with 20 points, seven rebounds, one assist and four rebounds on 8-of-16 from the floor.
Key Stats and Observations
- The Lakers finished the first half with only five turnovers yet ended the game with 18 leading to 25 points for the Cavs.
- Los Angeles continued their struggles from behind the arc as they shot only 9-of-31 (29.0 percent) vs. 15-of-36 (41.7 percent) for Cleveland.
- The Lakers’ primary advantage during the game was their edge on the offensive glass. They ended with an overall 49-39 advantage with a pronounced 16-8 lead on the offensive end.
- Los Angeles scored 62 points in the paint only adding to their league leading 54.2 points a game coming into tonight’s contest.
- The Lakers were out-shot and out-attempted at the free throw line as the Cavs made 20-of-25 for 80.0 percent while Los Angeles scuffled for 9-of-14 and 64.3 percent.
- Both teams shared the ball at a prodigious rate as the Lakers just barely out-assisted the Cavs 33-32.
The Lakers (10-17) have several days off before taking on the Golden State Warriors (23-6) on Monday night. This game is of particular significance for the franchise as the Lakers will be retiring Kobe Bryant’s jersey(s) on the night.
The Warriors are expected to be without back-to-back MVP Steph Curry but that hardly leaves them short on ammunition. They are still led by all-league player Kevin Durant who is coming off of a tremendous performance with 36 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks on 15-of-23 shooting.
Los Angeles will hope that the emotion of the evening, coupled with the fact that the Warriors are shorthanded, will be enough to vault the Lakers to victory during this brutally difficult stretch.
One player to keep an eye one during this matchup is Jordan Bell who the Lakers chose to pass on in the draft. Bell has the potential to be a force in today’s small-ball NBA and is coming off of an eight-point, six-rebound, eight-assist and two-steal performance.