The Los Angeles Lakers hosted the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday night, looking for their 21st win of the season.
Lakers starting shooting guard Nick Young missed the game with the flu, so D’Angelo Russell returned to the starting lineup in his place. He was joined by fellow young Lakers Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup.
Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue elected to rest his star players Saturday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, but they all returned Sunday night so LeBron James was joined by Kyrie Irving, Iman Shumpert, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson in the starting lineup.
The Lakers got off to a good start against the defending champs in their only visit to Los Angeles, as Clarkson knocked down a three to put the Lakers up 8-5. A couple minutes later Russell hit a midrange jumper to put the Lakers ahead 13-8. Love answered with an easy jumper though to cut it to 13-10.
Russell got off to a good start, making his first three shots for seven points and the Lakers led 17-13 midway through the first quarter.
After four straight points by Cleveland tied the game at 17, Russell answered with another three to put Los Angeles back out in front, causing Cleveland to call a timeout.
Immediately out of the timeout Cleveland went on a 7-0 run, spark by James who had four of the points and the Cavaliers had their first lead of the game at 24-20.
The Cavaliers stars James, Irving and Love were all hot in the first quarter, as they combined for 29 of their team’s first 31 points, with Love and James scoring nine each, and 11 for Irving. 18 first quarter points from Russell kept the Lakers in the game, but the Cavaliers still led 31-28 after one.
The first bucket of the second quarter went to James as he drilled a three. Channing Frye then hit a three of his own on the next possession and the lead was at 37-30.
The Lakers bench sparked a nice little 6-0 run though, as Corey Brewer, Tyler Ennis and Larry Nance Jr. were all able to finish in the paint. Four straight points by David Nwaba extended the run to 10-0, and the Lakers regained the lead at 40-37.
Derron Williams ended the run at 12-0 with a nice drive an finish. But Nance quickly answered with a three and the Lakers had their biggest lead of the game at 46-39.
Russell extended that lead to 52-43 with back-to-back buckets, giving Russell a game-high 22 points with five minutes left in the first half. Irving got going offensively as well though, knocking down back-to-back three to bring his team within one.
A strong close to the half gave the Lakers a 59-55 lead at halftime. Russell (22 points) and Clarkson (11 points) were the only Lakers in double figures, while Irving led the Cavaliers with 21 points. Love had a first half double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds and James added 12 points.
The two teams exchanged buckets to begin the third quarter, and about four minutes in Randle got an offensive rebound and drained a three to give the Lakers a 68-63 advantage. Zubac then followed with a dunk and Russell knocked down another three after a miss by Irving, giving the Lakers a 10 point lead and Lue was forced to call a timeout.
Frustrations were drawing high for the Lakers midway through the quarter, as Randle was called for a technical after an elbow on Thompson’s face. Thompson was forced to go to the locker room with a possible injury.After a three by Irving the Lakers lead was cut to 81-77.
A quick 5-0 run by the Lakers got it up to nine though as Russell turned a turnover from Frye into a layup. Irving and Russell then exchanged threes, as they were both putting on an offensive clinic.
The Lakers led 92-82 after three quarters, as Russell had a season-high 37 points. Irving was not far behind with 32 points of his own.
The young Lakers were seemingly unafraid of the heavily favored Cavaliers as they extended their lead to 11 early in the fourth quarter on a dunk by Nwaba. Back-to-back easy buckets by Richard Jefferson cut it to seven though two minutes into the final period.
Jefferson continued to spark his team, as an emphatic dunk and a nice pass to James for a bucket cut the deficit to four. Clarkson quickly answered with a driving layup to get it back to six though.
Love caught Nance in the air on a three-point attempt, drawing a foul. He made all three free throws to bring his team within three. Ingram responded with a big three on the next possession and again the lead was at six.
After Russell drained a midrange jumper while being fouled, he nailed the free throw to give him the first 40-point game of his young career. Irving quickly responded with a three though as the Cavaliers refused to disappear. After a turnover James finished a layup to tie the game at 104 with five minutes remaining.
A three by Irving, a layup by James and then a pair of free throws by Irving sparked a 7-0 Cavaliers run, giving them their largest advantage at 113-106. A nice pass by Russell off an inbounds pass led to an easy layup by Ingram to end the run.
An and-1 by James gave the Cavaliers a commanding eight-point lead with just over two minutes left in the contest, leaving the Lakers needing a dramatic comeback to win the game.
James goaltended a layup attempt by Clarkson, so he was awarded two points and the deficit was cut to five. That was close as they would get though as the Cavaliers went on to win 125-120.
Irving had a game-high 46 points while James had 34 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Love didn’t do much in the second half, but still finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds.
Russell led all five Laker starters in double figures with a career-high 40 points to go along with six assists. Clarkson finished with 19 points while Ingram was not far behind with 18.
The Lakers return to the court Tuesday when they host the Clippers at 7:30 p.m. Pacific time.