Just one week after Halloween, LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers continued their dreadful start to the season, losing 114-100 to a hot Cleveland Cavaliers team and falling to 2-7 on the year.
Thanks to a dominant backcourt performance led by Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland – who combined for 57 points – the Cavs won their eighth straight game and finished second in the Eastern Conference.
Mitchell, who added five rebounds to his game-high 33 points, said of playing against James: “When the big guys are on the floor, you try to find a way to go out and compete and get a win. We went out there and tried to do what we were doing, and luckily it was against Bron.”
Despite losing guard Patrick Beverley to flu-like symptoms before the game, the Lakers came out firing, taking a six-point lead after the first quarter. In particular, Russell Westbrook was super sub-par early on, going 5-6 from the field in the opening 12 minutes and clearly relishing his new sixth man role.
More importantly, he seemed to be enjoying himself again, something that had been missing since moving to the City of Angels. He was taunting Cavs players and wearing dancing shoes after making an and-1.
The home team took a six-point lead into halftime 64-58, with things looking good against one of the hottest teams in the league. But it would be a different story in the second half.
The Lakers have won just one third quarter this season, and that poor post-break trend came back to haunt them once again.
The Cavs put away the Lakers, starting the half with a 13-4 run and outscoring Los Angeles 29-16 in the quarter. Cleveland finished the game with 17 unanswered points through the third and fourth quarters for a comfortable victory.
“We didn’t come out ready (in the second half),” Westbrook said afterward. “We were catching up.”
Despite losing for the second time in 19 attempts against his former team, James was once again trying to carry the Lakers on his back, scoring 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists. But with only Anthony Davis – who finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds – and Westbrook – who had 19 points and 10 assists – really showing up, the Lakers looked toothless on offense once again.
The Cavs, on the other hand, look like contenders this year; Only the Bucks (9-0) have had a better start in the league than the Cavs, and they are looking to make the playoffs without James in their lineup for the first time since 1998.
“They did a great job in the offseason to get a big player,” James said after the game about Mitchell and his former team.
“They have a very good team and an excellent coach. A balanced team and a bunch of players (who) seem to want to play football.”
While the Cavs’ future looks bright, the Lakers will be left wondering how to keep up the pressure after the offseason in an effort to turn around their early season woes.