In a battle of will power, stamina and deteriorating health, the Los Angeles Lakers (17-32) managed to withstand a late Cleveland Cavaliers (16-33) run en route to a 119-108 victory on Wednesday night.
The Lakers saw a 21-point halftime lead cut to single digits late in the fourth quarter, but key baskets by Steve Blake (11 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists) were too much for the Cavaliers to overcome.
With Los Angeles only able to dress eight guys for action, it was at quite the disadvantage from the very beginning. With Robert Sacre and Chris Kaman fouling out and Jordan Farmar and Nick Young succumbing to injury, the Lakers faced a rare situation where they could only put four guys out on the floor.
Sacre was allowed to stay in the game, but every foul he would pick up from that point on would result in a technical foul for the team.
The Lakers' three-point shooting played a major part in why they were so successful, hitting 18-of-37 from behind the arc. Cleveland was held to just 37.6 percent shooting, but it did have a major advantage on the glass (57-40).
Game Grades for Los Angeles Lakers
Jordan Farmar, Point Guard
After sitting out the previous 16 games with a hamstring injury, Jordan Farmar made his triumphant return to action on Wednesday night, giving the Los Angeles Lakers yet another healthy backcourt option.
For someone who hadn't played since Dec. 29, Farmar looked like he hadn't missed a beat.
Speaking of things Farmar wasn't missing, his three-point shot would also fall under that category. He had a game-high 19 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range by halftime.
He wasn't on the floor late in the game, as it appeared that his hamstring was acting up again.
It's just another example of how injuries have taken over the fabric of this Lakers squad all year.
Even with his bad hamstring, Farmar still had one heck of a line with 21 points and eight assists.
Steve Blake, Shooting Guard
Steve Blake suffered a ruptured right eardrum in the first half of Tuesday's game against the Minnesota Timberwolves after colliding with Dante Cunningham. He visited an ENT specialist in Cleveland, got some ear drops—per Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles—and was able to go against the Cavaliers.
With the rest of his teammates making things happen on offense, Blake focused mainly on being a facilitator of the highest quality in the first quarter, dishing out eight assists with relative ease.
The Lakers were well in control on the scoreboard for a good portion of the game, so there wasn't much of a need for Blake to hoist up a number of shots. He did everything else to help his team win besides score the basketball.
Well, that was until he nailed a massive three-pointer with three minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to put Los Angeles up 114-103.
His decision making came into question when he took a forced three-pointer early in the shot clock afterward, followed by a turnover on a pass to Wesley Johnson.
All was forgiven, though, when he hit yet another clutch basket to put the Lakers up nine with less than a minute remaining.
It's easy to excuse his seven turnovers after taking note that Blake earned a triple-double of 11 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists.
Ryan Kelly, Power Forward
With Cleveland playing lackadaisical defense in the first 24 minutes of the game (and what ultimately became the rest of the game as well), Ryan Kelly looked to exploit that fact and put up points in a hurry.
His 13 first-half points matched or exceeded any scoring output he had from his previous four outings.
Kelly didn't stop there, though. He had 22 points with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter, which was a new career high for the former Duke Blue Devil.
He ended the night with four more points for a total of 26. Kelly was effective at the charity stripe, hitting 7-of-9, while also knocking down a couple of freebies to help seal the deal in the game's final moments.
Robert Sacre, Center
The Lakers were badly beaten on the glass, so I suppose Robert Sacre could have put in more of an effort with his rebounding.
He was one of only two players on the team with any legitimate size, but considering the foul trouble he was dealing with throughout the night, maybe it kept the big man from being overanxious around the rim and using too much of his body.
After picking up his sixth foul in the fourth quarter and with no one else left to replace him, Sacre had to be extra careful in keeping his hands to himself.
It was a humorous situation to watch, but probably not one to deal with personally.
Wesley Johnson, Small Forward
With Jodie Meeks out until at least All-Star weekend with a sprained right ankle, per ESPN.com, Wesley Johnson returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench against the Timberwolves on Feb. 4.
Shooting 35.8 percent from behind the arc on the season, Johnson was making it rain from downtown in the opening quarter, hitting all three of his attempts off penetration plays from Blake and Farmar. With 2:21 remaining in the first, the fourth-year pro had as many points as the entire Cavaliers team (15).
His offense died down in the final three quarters, as Johnson scored just five points the rest of the way. He was one rebound away from a double-double, grabbing nine boards.
Nick Young, Sixth Man
Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers collectively held their breath when Nick Young banged knees with C.J. Miles in the second quarter. The last thing this team needs is another injury, especially to a guy who's leading the way in scoring on the season (17.1 points).
Thankfully, Young was able to walk it off and make his way to the bench.
He was ruled out for the second half with a twisted left knee. There's no word yet on how much time (if any) he's expected to miss.
Swaggy P was one of the few guys remaining on the roster who hadn't missed a game due to injury. That distinction may now be in jeopardy.
In 18 minutes, Young would finish with six points, four rebounds and four assists while shooting just 20 percent from the floor.
The Los Angeles Lakers only had eight bodies to work with, so outside of Young, Chris Kaman and Kendall Marshall were all head coach Mike D'Antoni had left.
Kaman looked strong early on, enforcing his will down low en route to some easy looks around the basket. He hit all four of his shots in the first half while also grabbing three rebounds. The only downside to his start was that he picked up four fouls in eight minutes, which was obviously a major issue considering the lack of depth the Lakers had.
With Cleveland making a late surge, Kaman's sixth foul at the 8:24 mark of the fourth quarter left Los Angeles with just six guys—not the most opportune of times to leave the game, to say the least.
In 14 minutes, Kaman had 13 points and three rebounds for the second unit.
With more and more players returning from injury in the backcourt (Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar), Kendall Marshall was bound to become the odd man out.
That didn't mean he couldn't get in on the three-point barrage, hitting 4-of-6. We've seen all season how injuries can happen on the drop of a dime, so the Lakers will need Marshall to continue his hot streak in case someone else meets his fate once again.
The Los Angeles Lakers will finish up their three-game road trip on Feb. 7 at the Wells Fargo Center against Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers. They'll then return to the Staples Center for three games at home before NBA All-Star weekend commences on Valentine's Day.
Follow @WalderSports Follow FC Christopher Walder on Twitter