Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press
One night after failing to complete a late comeback against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Los Angeles Lakers had little trouble defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers, earning a 100-86 victory on Friday at Staples Center.
After missing nine games due to COVID protocols followed by extra time to improve his conditioning, big man Marc Gasol made his second straight start after scoring five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes on Thursday.
The victory snapped a four-game losing streak and gives Los Angeles (29-17) its first win since LeBron James sprained his right ankle against the Atlanta Hawks on March 20.
It’s been a tough stretch for Los Angeles without James and Anthony Davis (calf), but things seem to get easier now that Gasol is back in the rotation. That was the case Friday with Cleveland (17-28) in town for the only time all year and without starting guard Collin Sexton with a hamstring injury.
Montrezl Harrell, C, Los Angeles Lakers: 24 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists
Dennis Schroder, PG, Los Angeles Lakers: 17 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals
Larry Nance Jr., PF, Cleveland Cavaliers: 17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists
Jarrett Allen, C, Cleveland Cavaliers: 13 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists
Lakers rise in third quarter defeat Cavs
For the first time since LeBron James’ injury a week ago, the Lakers were finally able to build a double-digit lead against one of their opponents.
When you’re missing two of the best players in the league and you’re on a four-game losing streak, sometimes it’s the little things that help regain confidence that things will get better. Of course, a showdown with one of the worst teams in the league will help too.
Despite struggling in a first half in which Los Angeles didn’t hit a triple until 93 seconds before halftime, the Lakers couldn’t help fleeing the Cavs with a tight defense and a scoring surge in the third quarter.
LA opened the second half on a 19-6 streak for seven minutes that saw the Cavs shoot one in their first 16 from the floor. Combined with some late turnovers that led to transition dunks by the Lakers, it was more than enough to secure a much-needed victory after an unquestionably difficult stretch.
The four-game losing streak equaled Los Angeles’ longest of the season. Fortunately for the defending champs, that record will remain intact for a bit longer.
Gasol continues to rise
Before the Lakers hit the court, things began to look a bit more optimistic for head coach Frank Vogel & Co. with the news that Anthony Davis was authorized to increase his on-court rehab. While there is still no definitive schedule for the All-Star’s return, it was a much-needed update for a club that has seen too many negative health updates in recent days.
But just because Davis is getting close to a comeback doesn’t mean fans should expect a lot from him right away when he returns. Judging by how LA is using Marc Gasol in his return from a prolonged hiatus, the Lakers can continue to take it easy on Davis for a while once he returns to the rotation.
For the second night in a row, Gasol played just 15 minutes after Vogel inserted him at the starting line.
The offense rarely got through the big man as he continues to regain his game form.
Instead, Gasol was 2 of 3 from the floor with four points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block, two turnovers and three fouls.
It’s going to be an adjustment, one that hopefully won’t take Los Angeles long, but it also shows that the Lakers are willing to be patient with key players coming off injury.
Much depends on the return of James and Davis. They just won’t be asked to turn everything in right away.
The Lakers host another sub-.500 club on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET when the Orlando Magic visit Staples Center as the Cavs head north to face the Sacramento Kings at 10 pm ET. It’s the third stop on a four-game road trip for Cleveland.