Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma's Lakers Upset by Cavaliers Without LeBron James

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2019

Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Jan. 13, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

LeBron James remains out with a strained groin, but the Cleveland Cavaliers got some revenge against his new team with a 101-95 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.

Collin Sexton scored 17 and Tristan Thompson added 15 points and 14 rebounds as the Cavs snapped their 12-game losing streak with their first win since Dec. 18. Of course, Cleveland still has the worst record in the NBA at 9-35, the only team in the league without double-digit wins.

The Lakers are now just 3-7 without James, falling to 23-21 despite 29 points and nine rebounds from Kyle Kuzma. Lonzo Ball had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in the disappointing home loss.

     

Lakers' Struggles Without LeBron Paint Bleak Picture

James has now missed 10 games and could miss a few more. His groin is reportedly "progressing," but he won't be evaluated again until Jan. 16, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

We have seen enough to know that this Lakers team is not very good without him.

Los Angeles had lost six of its last nine games, but this might have been the worst performance of the season against arguably the worst team in the NBA.

The offense was especially embarrassing against a historically bad defense:

This probably summed it up best:

There were some good individual performances from Kuzma and Brandon Ingram (22 points), while Ball filled up the stat sheet. However, they were still outplayed by Cleveland, each finishing at least minus-13 on the court.

The young trio also didn't salvage an offense that was miserable in nearly every metric. The team shot just 39.6 percent from the field, including 7-of-34 from three-point range. Going 16-of-27 (59.3 percent) from the free-throw line at home is also cringe-worthy.

Outside of Kuzma scoring 41 points in a win over the Detroit Pistons and Ingram taking over against the Dallas Mavericks, these offensive struggles are pretty much what we have come to expect over the past couple of weeks.

The defensive effort also hasn't been there with the players looking lazy and disinterested at times, also failing to put up much resistance down the stretch:

This stretch without James hasn't left many positive takeaways.

While the four-time MVP returning to the court will mask some of these deficiencies, the poor play around him will likely hold this team back.

Throughout his time in Cleveland, we saw James having to carry the team in the playoffs, with a win or loss dependent on an incredible performance from him. There was hope things would be different with the Lakers thanks to the young core and the experienced veterans on the roster, but it seems to be more of the same.

There is still time for these players to improve, but LeBron is in trouble based on these recent performances.

       

What's Next?

The Cavaliers will continue their road trip Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Lakers will have only one day off before hosting the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

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