The Lakers handled the Cavaliers on Monday night, dismantling them 128-99 to move their winning streak to 9 games and their overall record to 33-7 this season. The Lakers actually lost the first quarter 27-21, but outscored the Cavs 107-72 over the final 3 periods to blow them out of the water.
Most of the damage was done by LeBron and Dwight in this one, both putting up fantastic stats that really do tell the story of how the Lakers won so handily. LeBron scored 31 points on 12-16 shooting and 6-7 from the FT line. He also chipped in 8 assists and 2 rebounds. If the rebounds seem low, it’s because Dwight grabbed 15 of them, while also adding in 21 points on 9 for 11 from the field. Dwight even made a 3 and went 2-3 from the foul line too.
Both Dwight and LeBron did most of their damage in the paint, figuring out in the 2nd half that Cleveland’s ball pressure attack was an attempt to hide their utter lack of rim protection. Once Bron sorted out how to beat that first layer of defense at the 3 point line, he breezed to the front of the rim and scored with ease. I mean, look at his shot chart:
All that green right by the basket? That’s good. Now, here’s Dwight’s:
When you threaten the rim the way the Lakers did, and are even somewhat respectable from behind the arc — the Lakers went 11-30 (36.7%) — things are likely going to go well for you. And, they did.
I wish I had more to say in this game, but I kind of don’t? We can talk about Kevin Love’s good shooting game, how the Lakers allowed too much dribble penetration, about how the Cavs brought a strong level of energy early on that the Lakers didn’t match…but those things pretty much went away halfway through the 2nd quarter. The Lakers did fall behind by as many as 14 at one point, but the Cavs were not a match for them and it played out that way over the course of the rest of the game.
So, yeah. I don’t mean to make this sound rote. Every win is important and no game should be taken for granted as easy or predetermined — something I wrote about in my game preview. I was mad after the 1st quarter and if you watched this game, I bet you were too. But, as the game wore on and as the Lakers brought more energy and intentionality to how they wanted to play, their superior quality showed. On to the next one.
Now, some notes:
- I’ll risk getting in trouble with the social media police by mentioning Alex Caruso because he was, again, a big difference maker in this game. 10 points, 1 rebound, and 6 assists don’t necessarily pop in the boxscore, but his +25 sure does. When the Lakers were dragging in the first 15-18 minutes of this game, Caruso was the lone Laker who came prepared to play hard and his energy really helped set the example for what the team needed to be if they were going to take control of the game. Beyond that, though, Caruso acquitted himself well as the lead guard with Rondo out, passing the ball well and making plays for teammates to get easy baskets. He had a couple of really nice assists to Dwight in this one after some dribble penetration — dumping the ball off at just the right time to get his big man an uncontested dunk.
- Danny Green didn’t have his best shooting night from behind the arc (1-4), but he did shooting 4-8 from the field overall for 10 points to go along with 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. He played solid defense for most of the night, but more importantly showed an ability to make a couple of plays off the dribble when the Cavs ran him off the arc. This will never be a strength of Danny’s game, but on a night he was given lemons, he made lemonade and I just wanted to give him some credit for it.
- Real up and down night for Kuz. After a wonderful performance against the Thunder on Saturday, Kuz only went 5-13 from the field for 11 points. He missed all 3 of his attempts from distance and also didn’t connect on a couple of shots in floater range that he’d typically make. I don’t have anything earth shattering to say about these types of swings in Kuz’s performance, but, obviously, it’d be better to hover around 14-17 points every night than to have these types of fluctuations in production.
- KCP didn’t have his best shooting/scoring night, but he had 5 assists in this one — most of them coming off the Lakers HORNS/handoff series where he comes off a double screen to get a handoff from a big man that turns into a quasi P&R. He’s gotten quite adept at making shot pass decisions in this action and it was good to see him find his bigs for lobs when he turned the corner and saw the help coming.
That’s it for this one. Be back with more later.