Lakers/Cavs: Ah, The Sweet Taste of Victory

Darius Soriano —  January 13, 2013

The Lakers got off the schneid for the 2013 calendar year, beating the Cavs 113-93. The win not only gave the Lakers their first of the year, but also stopped their 6 game slide that represented their low point of the season (even though they played very good teams in that stretch). But enough about the past, the Lakers won!

The Lakers set the tone early in this one, jumping out to a 37-20 lead after the first quarter and never looking back. Kobe Bryant was especially potent in the first frame, racking up 12 points on 4-6 shooting, including the return of the touch on his deep jumper by canning both of his 3 pointers. It wasn’t just Kobe’s scoring that set the tone, however. He also racked up 5 of his 6 total assists in the period, picking out teammates for good looks that they converted.

Two of those Kobe assists went to Dwight Howard, who was activated right before the game after sitting out 3 contests due to his bum shoulder. Kobe picked out Dwight right under the rim for two relatively easy finishes, plays that not only helped set the tone for how the Lakers wanted to attack a soft Cavalier interior but also to get Howard going in his return to action. Dwight, for what it’s worth, returned looking better than he has in some of the recent games he did play in. Playing with a spring in his step and a bounce in his legs, Dwight was making plays on both sides of the ball that we can only hope become more prevalent as the season wears on.

Howard wasn’t perfect by any means (his 7 turnovers are a prime example), but he was active in the paint and set the tone for how the Lakers would play inside. He attacked the ball both when it left a Cavalier’s hand and when it caromed off the rim as his 14 rebounds (4 offensive) reflect. When operating in the P&R, he rolled to the rim with good authority, snagging lobs from Nash that he was able to convert for easy baskets or pass back out to shooters. Overall, it was good to see Dwight back on the floor and play more like himself — though there’s still room for him to improve physically and continue to find his game.

Beyond Kobe and Dwight, the Lakers’ role players also stepped up tonight. Antawn Jamison had a good shooting night, making 5 of his 7 shots (4-5 from three point range) to score 16 points. Darius Morris also shot the ball well, scoring 14 points on only 9 shots (2-4 from three). Morris also played well on defense, playing tight on Kyrie Irving when they were matched up, chasing him around picks and pestering him around the perimeter. Irving still had some good plays, but his 15 points came on 15 shots and the Lakers were able to keep him out of the paint for most of the night and off the foul line entirely.

Earl Clark also had his second really good game in the last three contests. Using his athleticism to slide into open spaces and nice balance on his jumper, Clark finished well all over the floor to the tune of 13 points on 9 shots. Clark also contributed well on the glass, grabbing 9 rebounds while also continuing to flash good defensive instincts by blocking 3 shots. And while I’m preaching a tempered approach to Clark’s recent string of good play, what’s abundantly clear is that he has an athletic quality that this Laker team doesn’t have a lot of and by playing hard he’s able to make the plays in front of him.

In the end, the Lakers still have a ways to go, with their 22 turnovers and some open jumpers that were surrendered but went unconverted by Cleveland a couple of the black marks in this one. But, as we’ve been saying all year, a win is a win and beggars can’t be choosers at this point. They’ll get a chance to turn this win into a streak on Tuesday against the Bucks.

Darius Soriano

Posts

37 responses to Lakers/Cavs: Ah, The Sweet Taste of Victory

  1. Don’t want to set the bar too high but clark has a marion type skillset but is still raw. He doesn’t need the ball and can fill stat sheet. A few turnovers by having a weak handle but he can grow within this offense with pt. This game is mraningless other than the standings. Only a lengthy win streak will bring confidence not beating a lottery team.

  2. I’m trying my best not to get my hopes up. What is it going to be:

    Clark will remain solid, pau will finally fit in and find his groove and the lakers effort on defense will turn this season around…

    or…

    Clark has fresh legs and will likely drop off soon. Pau will be back next game and will continue to be the black hole he has been defensively. MDA will be forced to play Pau due to lack of options and upper management meddling. The same problems will persist (turnovers, shooting and defense).

  3. It’s simple. We need to play better defense to win games. The end.

    Again my hopes are that we perhaps get that 8th spot against Clippers & send CP3’s arrogant whining **** home..

    Then get Golden State youngsters & send them back to their mommas.

    Then SAN Antonio after an all out brawl with OKC, we beat them simply because Timmy & Ganobli will be so tired they won’t be able to score in the 4th (enter Mamba).

    Then the FINALS!

    Boston & Lakers (one last hoorah for the old timers , Byrant, Garnett, & Pierce,…) Enter Black Mamba!!

    LAKERS WIN IT ALL!!!

  4. Fact is the Lakers are a much better team with what we see from Clark. He gets down court on D, Pau dosen’t, he hits offensive boards, Pau dosen’t, he actually makes 3 pointers, Pau dosen’t and most important he can move his feet on defense and Pau dosen’t.

    Clark and Dwight actually appear to work well together on defense. Please don’t mess that up for Pau’s ego. Either bring Pau off the bench or make that 2 year trade for a young PG. Lakers can win with
    Clark.

  5. If Pau wants MASS post touches, he needs to come off the bench.

  6. Some thoughts on the game

    – good defense

    no 30 pt quarters let alone 40 pts quarters which was fantastic. Held cleveland to 40% shooting, and 20% from 3.

    Kobe, morris, clark, and howard all played good D and we were able to hide Jamison by having him play lukeeeeeeeee.

    – Clark, Morris, Jamison settled into clear roles and they seem to have a vibe as a second group with a PG and Center – I would choose Gasol as the center with … Duhon – I say duhon over meeks as duhon knows to get the ball out of his hands where as jodie just shoots no matter what so it kind of kills the chemistry when he is just jacking up shots – Sadly Blake may also find a role in this group just as a spot up shooter.

    Morris’s ability to break his man on the dribble and get into the paint is paramount for both open Jamison shots and clark cutting to the basket.

  7. Everytime that an injured player comesback from an injury and plays the Lakers win the game.This has been a trend for the Lakers this season, and I am starting to believe that if this team have their healthy roster then can win more games than they have right now.
    And this game was won because of the defensive tone that Kobe has set in this game. I just hope that he will have the same commitment on D every game.
    Further, this game showed what we can expext from this Laker team. If their Three point shots falls down it will be a blowout against any team.
    But if the long shots doesnt fall then we will play catch up the whole game and would slow the tempo at the 4th quarter and mount a comeback that would not ne enough. That has been the story of our wins and loses.

  8. Nash overpasses a lot.Shoot it Gatsby!

  9. The general feeling I get here is that all the Lakers issues are solved with just 1 win. Did you know that CLE is the league’s worst shooting team? And they are missing the league’s leading rebounder (or sure-fire top 3 still) and we couldn’t beat them by atleast 21 points?!

    Just kidding :D Sure feels like our 1st win in a looooong time. Oh wait.

  10. The gem we sought to find in all this adversity turned out to be a pearl. his name is Earl and he plays like a pearl! But seriously, he has the legs to run, jump, defend, hustle… that should give us quite the idea that thats all the Lakers need right now. Talent can win you alot of games but not if you can’t stop the other team aka defend. Don’t forget that defense, for all its misconceptions involve running, jumping, staying in front, denial, hedging, funneling, husting, covering, quickness, did I mention running and jumping?

    Defense, in all its cliche-ness has to be done by athletes that want the ball more than the other guy. Earl the Pearl just had enough gas in his tank to prove everyone, not complain where he gets the ball or how the offense should be ran. He hustles, he runs, he defends, he can shoot a bit too, he can block shots (3) but most of all he gives us the kind of energy I see in Jordan Hill, Darius Morris (despite the overdribble) Jodie Meeks (despite the lack of strength) … all this point out to age and athleticism.

    If you want to see more of this, and despite being against CLE and I know its just 1 game, don’t you love to see the fight and fun that you saw in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard’s faces last night?

    I hope Mitch sees it like I do.

  11. As a matter of principle, I do not believe in the “overkill” way of building teams. I point this out because I would rather have teams that have great overall balance over one thats supposed to have an advantage on one aspect but have deep holes on another.

    The last 4 games or so we’ve witnessed the emergence of Earl Clark – someone who has a skillset that the Lakers have long been deprived of. We have just never had this kind of athleticism, activity, energy and hustle since Ariza and Brown left town.

    The emergence of Clark being a steady rotation player has opened alot of other avenues to improve. You know what I refer to and thats regarding our “weak” back court. Steve and Kobe combine to be 74 years old. What we have behind them are: Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jodie Meeks and Darius Morris. We need help in this department and we need to part with our supposed “excess” in 1 aspect of the game to address this. Then perhaps we can finally start winning games.

  12. Kobe’s defense on Irving set a nice tone. So did his first quarter passing. While I don’t want to jinx Earl by anointing him as the next big thing, I will say this. Playing time either reveals or exposes a player. So far, the chance to play has shown that young Mr. Clark has some good skills. Hope he can keep it up as the league starts to pay more attention to him.

    Can’t say enough about Dwight returning and playing with force. The turnovers from him are a concern, but he played very well otherwise. D12 seemed very focused last night. Good job by him.

  13. Nice win but it was the Cavs…

  14. I won’t get excited with just one game!

  15. @RenatoAlfonso with the way Lakers are losing games a win even against a D-League team would excite me :D

  16. There is no reason to be exited, after a win over one of the worse teams in the league, this game is meaningless.milwakee is a little bit better and the Lakers love to stink up the joint after a good game and get our hopes up, not falling for that anymore.

  17. Last night helped to show both the good news and the bad news from this season:

    The Lakers are, unquestionably, the best and most talented lottery team in the league.

  18. yes, this was a home game victory over dreadful CLE, but as others have noted the starting 5 looks MUCH more fluid with Clark instead of Pau. If nothing else good happens this season, I hope Clark can maintain his level of play and will be the latest feel good story of “making the most of your chance.” WWL has been advocating the trading of Pau, and I am on board especially now, but if he isn’t traded, I really hope MDA brings him off the bench to rotate with D12 as it would make the overall team that much stronger.

  19. I’m with TViper. When Pau comes back, we best use him as Dwight’s backup at the 5, to give more balance to the team. I like the idea of just 1 7-footer at a time to maintain pristine D and more footspeed overall. MWP can alternate with Clark as the team’s PF if we’re facing the speedier teams and I believe that our supposed advantage with Pau and Dwight on the floor at the same time is just negated with confusion on offense and terrible transition D.

  20. I think the Lakers are a bit old to challenge for a title. Too many guys have been in and out of the lineup and Kobe can’t do it all on his own. I think a healthier Howard and Pau would help a lot, and Coach D’Antoni putting more emphasis on defense would not be bad either.

    In short, it’s early, but LA has to improve sooner rather than later if you get my drift.
    http://wp.me/1gCK6

  21. Morris may over dribble but me thinks he’s a keeper. He is intriguing enough (for a second year player that spent his first year in lockout until December 2012) that he should stick after this season and pick Steve Nash’s brain everyday. His size, emerging defense, willingness to learn and improve should not be overlooked.

    Dwight Howard is the Lakers franchise player post Kobe. Maybe even a bit of Mamba nastiness is rubbing off on him.

    Nash simply must shoot more, it makes the opposing team confused on which player to double.

    Hopefully, Jamison’s game against his old team will light a fire under him more consistently. And, he does look good playing with Nash because he knows how to move without the basketball. Something MWP has been reluctant to do, he has relegated his game to the 3pt line and that will not work in this offense.

    Earl Clark (I like WWL naming him the Pearl) has played 3 strong games against different caliber opponents, so he is of interest going forward this season and next. After being in the league for four years, let’s hope that his body is able to absorb the playing time.

    Kobe’s defense wore him out against CP3 and the next game he missed shots. Look for him to loose a bit of offensive efficiency on Tuesday.

    1-0 in this new season. Lakers need a string of wins to get over what ailed them.

  22. We’ve heard numerous comments here that opine that the Lakers’ FO wouldn’t sanction using Pau off the bench because he is being paid top dollar. I don’t believe that for a second. Now, I’d be more inclined to believe that Pau might be opposed to such a move. It remains to be seen if MD’A is thinking along those lines.

  23. darius: in complete agreement with tviper and warren, concussion boy should be the starting center for the 2nd unit. should never be coupled with dwight howard at any time during the course of any game. did not work well w/bynum and certainly does not work w/howard. should not be looked upon as a demotion. moreover should be looked upon as a reasseration of a two headed dr. jekell and mr. hyde. teams would be hard pressed to figure out and deal with that interchanging combo. just a matter of having the coaches experiment with and figure out how best to use earl clark with dwight howard and antawn jamison with pau gasol and/or vice versa. and if either center is coming back from an illness/injury set back, the other combo center/power forward can start until the other combo unit is fully healthy.

    if the scouting coaches are worth anything, they should already know what combo center/power forward would work best against opposing teams. with nash and kobe’s experience, playing alongside either center combo at any given time should not present a problem, should actually show off their limitless basketball abilities.

    now let’s get out there and make this thing work.

    Go Lakers

  24. I agree with Funky here. The Cavs are 9-30 and are missing Varejao. If Howard had not played, the game probably would have been a struggle.

    As to Clark, he has never shown the ability to make enough shots to play regularly. This is not to say he can’t develop with PT, but some folks are overreacting. He does add some length and athleticism.

    To me, the key game this week is not Miami, but Milwaukee. The Bucks are a decent team with a good athlete up front (Sanders) and two quick guards who can score (Ellis and Jennings). They beat Miami a couple of weeks ago. It is a game that the Lakers can win or lose.

  25. A few thoughts:

    -Earl Clark starting to look legit

    -We (Laker fans) are truly starving for hope & wins making so much of splitting the series with the Cavs, one of the worst teams in the league. For those who forgot, Cavs beat Lakers by six on Dec. 11th.

    -” General Manager Mitch Kupchak said the Lakers would consider applying for a disabled-player exception for injured big man Jordan Hill, though the team was leaning against it because of its already bloated $100-million payroll. They would be allowed to spend $1.78 million on a free agent if the NBA granted them the exception. “We’ll look into it,” Kupchak said. “We have until Tuesday.” Los Angeles Times” Kenyon Martin anyone? Or would a return of Troy Murphy be a better fit as a stretch 4 in D’Antoni’s system?

  26. The Lakers defensive struggles will begin and end with Kobe. When hes dialed in and not playing roaming defense it makes a HUGE difference. His roaming leads to the other team getting easy buckets giving away 6 to 10 points. This team now has offensive weapons, other then Kobe. There is no need to rest Kobe on defense. And when he shows up on D, the rest of the team will follow suit.

  27. Watching last nights rerun I came to a conclusion? Caves without Anderson V are tbe worst team in the NBA. Lakers had wide open shots all game. Caves missed 5 or 6 dunks. Most important Lakers has 22 TURNOVERS. They lose to 26 out of 29 teams last night.

    Dwight 7 TO’s. Really? In addition I am becoming more concerned about Nash. Three times in a row he dribbled into the lane and either lost the ball or forced a poor pass. He should have had 5 TO’s and appears to not want to shoot.

    Truth be told if Nash is the expert on Mike’s offense, there are bigger problems. He often seems lost just dribbling around. So far what I see can be done by 30 PG in the NBA. Since Steve came back the Lakers are worse. Wasn’t he the savior?

    Has Nash become that old girlfriend you haven’t seen in 5 years but keep dreaming about? You finally meet again and she is looks older, moves slower and is not close to what you remembered.

    Hope I am wrong but Cavs game was a joke and Mike choosing to announce that as the start was even more of one. Couldn’t make the
    start the Clips or OKC or how about the Heat!

    This team needs new parts not silly statements from the coach or a 39 year old future HOFer dribbling around like Curly Neal on the Globetrotters!

  28. I’ll take any win at this point. We have to remember that one of the reasons the Lakers are 16-21 is because they have lost games to generally weak teams like Cleveland. They would be several games above .500 if they could have beaten teams like this from the beginning. So seeing them beat Cleveland is actually a form of progress. After all, they didn’t beat them the last time they played them. Varejao or not, the Lakers should be beating teams like Cleveland.

  29. I still think we should get CDR Delonte and Nate McMils as the defensive assistant coach.

  30. Darius, this is obviously off topic, but I have noticed that you are extremely quick to block people on Twitter. And just as quick to call them trolls. Twitter is a much more nuanced medium of communication than that, especially given the 140 character count. In this day in age you can be considered media and thus a gatekeeper to information. And as a gatekeeper you bear certain responsibilities and one is to be thoughtful of keeping the line of information open to the public. Maybe you should post something on your twitter page about what you consider a blockable offense, like a no shoes, no shirt, no service sign.

  31. D,
    I actually don’t block a lot of people on twitter. Maybe a half a dozen total. So, I’m not sure where you get that from. As an aside, you should tell me your user name on twitter so I can block you. :)

  32. Earl Clark’s “emergence” is the reason why D’Antoni can’t play these 8 man rotations. I was looking at the box scores earlier in the season when people were talking about Bryant and company logging so many minutes and I couldn’t help but see DNP’s next to his name. I was thinking surely he could give energy at least in 2-3 minute spurts.

    And who is working with Howard daily in practice in regards to ball security? He gets stripped at least 2-3 times a game. Its crazy. Nice win but I want Nash to play more aggressively and see Bryant score more from weak side actions instead of just floating where Nash is.

    I think D’Antoni is going to have to start playing Nash a little more and is going to have to be more creative with the minutes with staggering Nash and Bryant’s minutes especially in the start of 2nd quarters so at least one of them is in the game.

  33. Darius, HA! How do you know you haven’t already blocked me? I obviously don’t know how many people you block. Just something I noticed from you more often than others and when I checked what the offenders said it read pretty innocent. I thought I would mention it.

  34. D,
    I think the key part there is “I don’t know how many people you’ve blocked.” Best to leave it at that.

  35. Darius, sure, but what we don’t agree on has just as much merit.

  36. D,
    It’s really not that big a deal. In fact, I’m pretty sure you only brought it up b/c I occassionally tell people I’m going to block them (which may or may not happen). If I never told anyone, you’d have no reason to think I was blocking people. Furthermore, it’s only twitter. It’s not that serious. Ha.

    That said, I block people because I feel like it. Say something that I don’t like at any given time and it could happen. Why this matters to you is a bit beyond me, but there’s your answer. If that seems trivial, I really don’t care. Just as I don’t care when people unfollow. That’s the nature of that platform.

  37. Darius, yes, it is not a big deal. I just felt bad for the people I referenced. As a sports fan I appreciate the importance of being able to read as much about your favorite team as possible. As a journalism fan I appreciate the importance of inviting dialogue with the public. You are posting as a representative of your blog so you are a journalist. My opinion.