The Los Angeles Lakers came into Wednesday night having lost 19 of the last 22 games, but their hosts, the Cleveland Cavaliers, had lost five straight. In a stunning game that saw the Lakers build a massive lead and then run out of players in the fourth quarter, the Cavs failed to complete the comeback in the 119-108 loss.
Lakers rookie Ryan Kelly hit a career-high with 26 points. Wesley Johnson scored 15 first-quarter points on his way to 20. Jordan Farmar scored 13 second-quarter points on his way to 21. Steve Blake, in his second game back from injury, reached a triple-double with 11 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds. He also added three steals but turned it over seven times.
C.J. Miles led all scorers with 27 in the losing effort. Anderson Varejao double-doubled with 15 and 13, plus five assists. First-overall selection Anthony Bennett looked strong with 14 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes.
After the Lakers (17-32) led by as many as 29 points in the second quarter, they closed the first half up 70-49 for their highest-scoring half of the season. It seemed that every single perimeter jump shot they attempted was a wide-open look.
Cleveland (16-33) coach Mike Brown struck gold in the third quarter when he brought his second unit in with 7:32 remaining. Brown did a line change like you'd see in hockey, subbing every starter except Varejao and Jarrett Jack. That bench mob of Miles, Bennett, Dion Waiters and eventually Matthew Dellavedova changed a 26-point deficit into just eight points with 5:47 left in the fourth.
Kyrie Irving remained on the bench for the final 19:32 of the game. He finished with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals, but he was also 5-of-14 shooting. That is no kind of way to treat your franchise point guard.
The Lakers began the night with just eight available players since Steve Nash (nerve root irritation) does not yet play in back-to-backs, and they had the following injuries: Jordan Hill (neck), Jodie Meeks (ankle), Kobe Bryant (knee) and Xavier Henry (knee).
Then Nick Young twisted his knee. Then Chris Kaman fouled out. Then Jordan Farmar's legs cramped up, and he was already dealing with a tight hamstring. And then Robert Sacre fouled out with 3:32 left, leaving the Lakers with four healthy players who had not been disqualified. By rule, Sacre had to remain in the game, but the Cavs were awarded a technical foul.
Cleveland couldn't find the magic to finish it out, but they did salvage a modicum of respect after playing D-League quality defense in the first half. Amazingly, the Cavs grabbed 27 offensive rebounds to just six for the Lakers and still lost by 11 points.