Just when it looked as if it couldn't get any worse for the Los Angeles Lakers, things may have hit a season low Tuesday after a 100-94 road loss at the hands of one of the NBA's worst teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kyrie Irving, playing in his first game in more than three weeks because of a broken finger in his non-shooting hand, kept the trend alive of opposing point guards torching the Lakers' defense. Irving had 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting, to go along with 11 assists and 6 rebounds.
Irving's inspired play seemingly affected the rest of his teammates, as C.J. Miles (28 points, 10-of-18 shooting, 5 3-pointers), Anderson Varejao (20 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals), and Alonzo Gee (17 points) each took turns dismantling the Lakers' shoddy defense.
On the Lakers' front, Kobe Bryant continued his efficient shooting performances, scoring a season-high 42 points on 16-for-28 shooting. However, Bryant had five turnovers and only two assists, a sign of both his ball dominance and the Lakers' inability to aid his potent offensive attack.
Dwight Howard had a quiet 19 points and 20 rebounds, as he was frustrated with the double- and triple-teams the Cavs threw his way. Besides that, no other Laker had a decent offensive night.
Not all was terrible, though, as L.A. pounded Cleveland on the boards 54-43 and grabbed an astounding 15 offensive rebounds against one of league's top rebounding teams. The Lakers also kept their turnovers low in the second half, with only five.
Where they lost the game was the plethora of turnovers they had in the first half (13), missed free throws (25-for-40, 62.5 percent) and lack of ball movement (only 11 assists).
Pau Gasol sat out his fifth straight game and is still day-to-day. The Lakers are 1-4 in his absence.
The Lakers, now 9-13 on the season, have lost eight of their past 11 games and are 2-7 on the road. Next up are the New York Knicks on Thursday, before L.A. finishes up its four-game trip in Washington on Friday and Philadelphia on Sunday.
Here are four takeaways from the game:
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
The Lakers have struggled with taking care of the ball all season, but Tuesday's pathetic display has to rank as abysmal as any.
Whether it was poor entry passes to Howard or Bryant in the post, Howard fumbling the ball against double- and triple-teams, or the guards simply not protecting their dribble while initiating L.A.'s offensive sets, the Lakers just couldn't maintain consistent possession. They tied a season-high of 13 turnovers in the first half, and had 18 overall, in what was a disconcerting lack of execution.
Shall we dance?
Last season, when he was a member of the Orlando Magic, Chris Duhon gained Internet notoriety for his "travel dance" in a playoff game against the Indiana Pacers. He, along with the rest of the Lakers perimeter defenders, must've left their dancing shoes in L.A., because they couldn't keep up with the quick feet of Irving, Gee or Miles.
Irving absolutely abused the Lakers on pick-and-rolls and isolation plays, Gee blew by Bryant on a handful of occasions, and Miles' movement off screens left the Lakers perplexed. The Lakers continue to suffer at the hands of quicker, more athletic wings, which is a disturbing trend to look out for as the season progresses.
Third time's the charm
There aren't many positives to take away from this game, but the Lakers can hang their hat on their third-quarter performance.
They held the Cavaliers to just 14 points on 5-of-22 shooting (22.7 percent) and forced Irving to take tough shots (2-for-8 in the quarter). While the Cavs missed a decent amount of open shots, the Lakers undoubtedly amped up their defensive intensity, if only for 12 minutes. Led by Bryant's 10 points, the Lakers scored 23 points themselves and brought the game to within six points, eliminating the possibility of it becoming a blowout. It was the only silver lining in an otherwise brutal game.
There’s Kobe and then there's everyone else
As has been the trend this season, Bryant had a monster game offensively and received little help from his teammates.
Don't let the numbers fool you, Howard didn't play very well. He couldn't finish at the rim (3-for-9 shooting), was average at the free-throw line again (13-of-22) and had trouble handling the ball (four turnovers). Metta World Peace chipped in 13 points and was active on the offensive glass, but it's clear that the Lakers lack offensive options with Steve Nash and Gasol out.
The Lakers are now 1-10 when Bryant scores 30 or more points this season.