Behind an incredible display of three-point shooting, the Cleveland Cavaliers (14-24) held off a late rally against the Los Angeles Lakers (14-24) and secured a 120-118 victory at the Staples Center on Tuesday night.
Luol Deng went 5-of-5 from downtown as part of a 13-of-17 effort from the Cavs. They looked eager and proved able to exploit the typically loose perimeter defense of the Lakers.
Deng led six Cavs in double figures with 27 points.
Coach Mike Brown was happy with the win, as he deflected questions about his being fired by the Lakers after five games last season, per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:
Mike Brown: "I don't care where I am. ... Whether we're in Sacramento, or we're in Dallas or San Antonio, I want to win."— Bill Oram (@bill_oram) January 15, 2014
For the Lakers, Jodie Meeks and Nick Young combined for 54 points, but their hot shooting wasn't enough to make up for the poor defense on the perimeter.
Key Player Grades
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers, Point Guard
In a battle of Duke vs. North Carolina point guards, Kyrie Irving was pretty handily outplayed by the Lakers' Kendall Marshall.
Irving allowed the second-year guard to pretty much get wherever he wanted on the floor, as Marshall finished with 16 assists and 10 points.
Irving also had a difficult time scoring, as Marshall drew enough fouls to force Cleveland's point guard to the bench a couple of times.
He still managed to be on the floor for 30 minutes and scored 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting while dishing out four assists.
Luol Deng, Cleveland Cavaliers, Small Forward
Deng was the key to a Cleveland victory in the best game of his very young career as a Cavalier. He got to his 27 points on just 15 shots and also grabbed five rebounds.
He played so well at Staples that some bloggers couldn't help but wonder about his potential to become a Laker when he hits free agency this summer:
Luol Deng & Kyrie Irving out here auditioning for Lakerdom. #FutureLakers— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) January 15, 2014
Deng's audition is going quite well, I'd say.— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) January 15, 2014
Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers, Power Forward
He was pretty inefficient as a scorer, but Tristan Thompson helped the Cavaliers dominate the boards Tuesday. He went 6-of-15 from the field and finished the game with 15 points and 13 rebounds.
He also hit a big free throw down the stretch to help the Cavaliers secure what ended up being a pretty tight contest.
Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers, Center
As good as Deng was on Tuesday night, Anderson Varejao may have been equally as dominant. He scored 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, grabbed 18 rebounds and handed out a team-high six assists.
It was a complete game for Varejao, as he made Pau Gasol look out of his league on Cleveland's end of the floor.
He did struggle to defend Gasol on the other end, as the Lakers big man also notched 18 points. But Varejao's dominance on both backboards (he had seven offensive rebounds) made up for that.
C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers, Shooting Guard
C.J. Miles only played 15 minutes, as coach Mike Brown opted to go with Dion Waiters and Matthew Dellavedova at shooting guard for most of the game.
He finished with just five points on 2-of-6 shooting and was a complete non-factor in his short stints trying to defend Jodie Meeks (who finished with 26 points).
Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers, Shooting Guard
Waiters played the most minutes of any Cav off the bench, and though he struggled from the field (4-of-11), he still managed to score an efficient 17 points because of his ability to get to the free-throw line.
He made 7-of-8 from there and also knocked down both of his three-point attempts.
Bench, Cleveland Cavaliers
Waiters was one of three combo guards who played the bulk of the reserve minutes for Cleveland Tuesday. Dellavedova and Jarrett Jack were the other two.
The former played very well, scoring 11 points while shooting 3-of-5 from three-point range and providing the most consistent defense of any of Cleveland's perimeter players.
Jack struggled, going 1-of-5 from the field for just four points. He did make up for that to an extent with five assists.
The lone big man off the bench was Tyler Zeller, who went for eight points and four rebounds in 17 minutes of action.
After defeating the Lakers, the Cavaliers will hit the road to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 10 p.m. ET on Wednesday night.
The Cavs get to play the Blazers on the 2nd night of a back to back. Blazers haven't played since Saturday. Schedule loss woohoo!— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKazNBA) January 15, 2014
The first meeting between the two wound up as a 119-116 victory for Portland.
For 140-character pearls of wisdom from Bleacher Report's Andy Bailey, follow him on Twitter: @AndrewDBailey.