What a bunch of bums.
I foolishly assumed the dark times of LeBron James' injury were behind us. On Sunday night, the rest of Los Angeles and I experienced a new level of shame as the LA Lakers let the league-worst Cleveland Cavaliers come into their building and cop a shocking W, 101-95. This win broke the Cavs twelve-game losing streak dating back to the middle of December. Luke Walton's rotations were suspect at key moments per usual, and the Lakers couldn't make a free throw or three-pointer for the life of them. Problems they've been dealing with all year, but losing a game like this is inexcusable on every level.
You saw the player's body language as they stood slouched around the stripe as the Cavs took their final free throws. You could feel the dark energy emanating through your TV screen. These are the kinds of games that are followed by a player being traded or a coach being fired. The Lakers organization has been hesitant to succumb to any wave-making personnel changes, opting for a strategy centered on patience and player development. I've adopted this mindset as well for the most part, but a loss as disgusting as this like this really makes me think.
Rhythm Of The Game
LA started off pretty badly to kick this thing off. Cleveland was balling on them left and right while the Lakers struggled to figure out an offensive game plan. It shouldn't have been hard - Cleveland was dangerously thin on their front line with the injury to Larry Nance Jr. Attack the paint like you've been doing in all your last three wins! Cedi Osman, Rodney Hood, and Colin Sexton led the charge as the Cavs played with a ten point lead over the Lakers in the early going.
It wasn't until Lonzo Ball started stepping up as the head playmaker that the Lakers got back in it. Despite his shaky scoring, Lonzo has stepped up big time in his playmaking responsibilities over the last several contests. He had 11 early points to go with four assists, two boards and a steal as the Lakers closed the gap to single digits. Brandon Ingram pitched in an additional eleven as LA cut it to a five-point lead at the half, 51-46.
Los Angeles struck first with four quick points to cap off the third, but the Cavs immediately erased that progress like it was nothing. They went on a run that saw them go up by ten after the Lakers cut it to a one-possession game, and they more or less held that for the majority of the third.
Cleveland made a handful of three's but they were really doing their damage on the Lakers bigs in the interior. Tristan Thompson proceeded to sit down and have an all-out feast on these attempts near the hoop as the Cavs held the home team at arm's length, 75-65 after three quarters. LA's inefficiency from the three-point line (5/25, 20% ) kept them from getting over the hump that was LeBron's former team. If the Lakers didn't clean up their execution and Luke Walton didn't clean up his rotations (Kuzma sitting eight big minutes in the third while we couldn't score? Lance Stephenson over the red-hot Beasley off the bench?), they were staring down the barrel of their worst loss of the season to the 8-25 Cavs on a 12-game losing streak.
The fourth quarter came and Luke Walton looked like he removed his head out of his ass just the slightest bit. Michael Beasley and Kuzma came back in and both provided instant offense, scoring the first three buckets of the fourth for the Lakeshow. But whenever it seemed like the Lakers would get within five the Cavs stretched it back out to ten. Missed free throws were just killing them at this crucial juncture.
With five minutes to play, the Lakers trailed by five measly points, 84-79. That lead felt a lot larger than it really was, but that was just because the Laker offense looked so bad. This uninspiring performance against the league-worst Cavs actually made me ashamed to be a god damn Laker fan. Ten point game with a little more than two minutes to play, 93-83. The Lakers managed to find a little gusto in the very last seconds to bring it to a single possession game, but it was too late. The Cavs played the free throw game until the final buzzer. Cleveland wins 101-95.
I can't think of any non-injury related outcome worse than what we saw tonight. Maybe if we got blown out that would've been worse, but a loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers is as fat a loss as they come. Losing at home to the last place team in the entire NBA that sports the bottom-ranked defense. You literally could not have been faced with an easier set of circumstances for victory in the current NBA.
I'm outright depressed man. I couldn't believe how small the young guys came up tonight. The Lakers desperately need shooters, or someone to come in and teach them how. This stretch without LeBron is just a painful reminder at how far this LeBron-less team has to go. The Lakers can be hot and cold with their three-point shooting, but their league-worst percentage at the free throw line is priority #1 in my opinion. LeBron's return will help out a ton with getting better looks from three, but he doesn't help set teammates up for free throws! Matter of fact, he's one of our biggest culprits at the stripe!
It's widely believed that the Los Angeles Lakers don't have a dedicated shooting coach. In addition, Luke Walton is commonly knocked for his lack of creativity with the offense. Maybe you don't need to completely overhaul your personnel by firing Luke Walton. Just hire some competent offensively-focused assistant coaches and bring in a shooting coach. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope actually hired a personal shooting coach, and he saw an immediate improvement in his percentage on the year. He boosted his three-point percentage by 17%! I mean what the hell!
The Lakers worst loss of the season will undoubtedly cause some internal strife. Get ready for some Adrian Wojnarowski reports along the lines of the about the front office berating Luke Walton, if not reports of the Lakers contemplating letting Luke go. I still don't think they'll drop him in the middle of the season because the coaching market is just too thin, not to mention LeBron has been out during this whole run. But if you're a Laker fan, you're unquestionably thinking about how much greener the grass could be on the other side.