Recap: Cavs 125, Lakers 120 (or, City of Stars)

If you come to La La Land… you expect to see stars. After all, it’s a city that’s full of them. It’s even one of the few stops in the NBA where the names you see in the stands are as big as those playing the games on the court. Look around and you’ll find them… Denzel, Jack, even Tristan’s girlfriend Khloe. They were all there last night at the Staples Center to see LeBron and his co-stars (well, ostensibly the Lakers too, though their stars are still in the auditioning phase). Unlike the previous night in the exact same venue against the Clippers, the Cavs did not disappoint… putting their three All-Stars on full display. And, fortunately all of them shone brightly, as the wine & gold found themselves in an offensive extravaganza, highlighted by a dizzying dance between two creative and talented young guards. The entertaining performance was one befitting the star-studded occasion… though it placed a spotlight on what was missing just the night before.

City of stars
Are you shining just for me?

The three Cavalier stars (LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin) who sat out the front end of the tinseltown back to back for various reasons, were well rested and ready to shine from the jump. In fact, outside of a lone put-back by Tristan Thompson, they were the only Cavs who scored in the first quarter. The dynamic trio were responsible for 29 of the 31 points in the period. Kyrie led the way with 11 on 5-7 shooting, while LBJ and KLove chipped in nine a piece. While the Cavs went to town in the paint for more than half of their points (16), the Lakers bombed away from the outside, led by rising star D’Angelo Russell, who was a perfect 4-4 from three on his way to 18 first quarter points. LeBron did also have this PhantomCam worthy dunk…

With Kyrie and Kevin on the bench to start the second, LeBron didn’t get much from the rest of his supporting cast after he hit a three and set Channing Frye up for another to put the Cavs up seven. The Lakers went on an 18-3 run, fueled by Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr. and relative unknown David Nwaba to completely reverse the advantage. Then Love and Irving returned to help restore order. Kevin scored six and grabbed six boards, while Kyrie continued his dance with Russell, notching 10 in the quarter (21 in the half).

The up and coming Laker stars were at it again, making a name for themselves in the third quarter in their extended auditions for Coach Luke Walton. Russell exploded for another 15 points in the period, while Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle and Ivica Zubac all showed flashes of promise with their shooting and post moves. They pushed the lead out to 10 before LeBron and Kyrie reeled it back in with 10 points each themselves. Uncle Drew dueled D’Angelo, trying to out-jazz him with difficult shots… but Russell had the scoring edge, 37-32 going into the final frame.

The start of the fourth saw the Cavs facing their largest deficit of 11 following a Nwaba dunk, but just then, Richard Jefferson stole the spotlight. R.J. scored all seven of his points on the night in a row, as the “baseline bandit” threw down three straight buckets on baseline cuts. He also had a steal and an assist on an LBJ driving layup. Then, Kevin scored six on a banana-in-the-tailpipe move as well as a traditional triple, and Kyrie knocked in a three to cut the Laker lead to two. A steal and terrific assist on the break by J.R. Smith to LeBron tied it up, and sent the Cavs on a 13-2 run that just about sealed the victory. Cleveland went up by nine, and L.A. never got closer than the final five point margin again.

The three stars for the Cavs accounted for 101 of their 125 points. They combined to shoot 34-58 (59%) from the field and 12-25 (48%) from deep. They were also 21-25 (84%) from the line, and accounted for over half of the team’s rebounds and assists. LeBron had 34 points, seven assists and six boards, and Kevin amassed 21 points and 15 rebounds in just 26 minutes. Meanwhile, Kyrie scored 46 on his own (14 in the 43 point fourth quarter) and matched D’Angelo nearly shot for shot in a combo guard showdown. Their dance nearly put Gosling and Stone to shame…

City of stars
There’s so much that I can’t see

For all of the star power present, there wasn’t much support behind the big three for the Cavs, at least until the fourth quarter. Granted, the rest of the team didn’t get the benefit of having the night off on Saturday against the Clippers, so they were most likely not nearly as fresh. Still, even under those circumstances, you’d expect a bit more out of the shooting guard position than what the Cavs got from Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. Neither had a particularly good outing the night before, and that trend continued for most of this contest. In the first half, the two were a combined 0-7 (0-5 from beyond the arc), and most were on wide open shots. Shump also had one particularly maddening possession where he dribbled for 23 seconds before hoisting an ill-fated layup attempt (www.pleasestopdribblingShump.com crashed due to increased traffic levels). Shump did have a decent third quarter stretch where he went 3-4 for all six of his points, but J.R. remained cold (1-7, 0-5 total). Neither defended particularly well for the first three quarters as well, giving entirely too much cushion to Laker shooters. J.R. did have one terrific sequence, however, in the fourth that helped turn the momentum with a steal and subsequent save of a ball in transition which led to an LBJ layup…

Two of the other supporting cast had varying degrees of success before they both met with unfortunate injuries that cut short their time on the court. Tristan actually had a fairly effective night on the glass (10 boards, six offensive) in his 26 minutes before receiving an elbow sandwich from Julius Randle in the third quarter. TT went straight to the locker room, as Randle was assessed a technical foul for the “unnatural movement” on his follow through. Tristan revealed after the game that both of his front teeth were knocked loose, but that the Lakers’ team doctor was able to “pop them back in” and hold them together with a brace. Sounds like veneers might be in TT’s future… especially if he wants to keep up with the Kardashians. At least his mouthguard helped…

Deron Williams also experienced a minor issue when he jammed his thumb into Jordan Clarkson’s shoulder. DWill did return to the game, but didn’t seem eager to shoot much afterwards. He finished just 1-3 for two points with two assists in 17 minutes.

Channing Frye didn’t see much action even with the Cavs missing chunks of time from TT (after the injury) and Kevin (minutes restriction). The big man only saw 13 minutes on the floor, as Ty Lue elected to go small for much of the second half. He shot just 1-3 with a three and collected one rebound. At least he saw the floor though, unlike Derrick Williams, who sat this one out. DWill was not on the injury report, and appeared to be a healthy DNP-CD (although he did have a quad contusion that kept him out of the Utah game).

The one guy who did stay healthy, and made an impact (especially later in the game) was Richard Jefferson. He changed the tone of the game with his baseline banditry and aggression in the fourth quarter with seven straight points to propel the Cavs back into the game and cut their 11 point deficit in half. Though his 36 year old bones might have been weary on the second night of a back to back (for some people), he fought through it…

Who knows?
Is this the start of something wonderful and new?

Offensively, the Cavs were fairly unstoppable against the Lakers. Yes, the Lakeshow currently occupies the basement of the Western Conference, but they also defend decently under Luke Walton and have a lot of youthful energy. The Cavs’ stars were out in force though, and clearly benefitted from having the previous night off to rest and prepare for the lesser L.A. team. Even with the absence of Kyle Korver, poor shooting nights from their other guards, and new injuries to Tristan and DWill, they still managed to put up 125 points. Each one of the big three played like the All-Stars that they are, and put on a show for those in attendance. Sadly, the display should only serve to further fuel the annoyance of Clippers fans (and L.A. based Cavs fans) who missed out the night before. The victory did allow the Cavs to officially clinch a playoff spot, a positive if not inevitable development.

Or one more dream that I cannot make true?

As dominant as the scoring was from the big three, the defense was back to rusty sieve-like levels for much of the game. There was about a five minute stretch in the middle of the fourth quarter where the Cavs buckled down and got serious about defending the Lakers, and that allowed them to get enough stops to slingshot past the youngsters. Yes, most of the team was still feeling the effects of the back to back, and yes, J.R. hasn’t quite regained his old defensive prowess. However, Kyrie was about as bad trying to guard D’Angelo Russell (career high 40 points on 14-22 shooting, 7-12 from three), as he was good in torching Russell on the other end. He stuck to most screens, and rarely hustled to recover. LeBron also was guilty of refusing to help on weakside rotations, and wound up as mostly a spectator on a couple of Zubac and Randle dunks. Not saying these guys need to be playing playoff-level defense, but just a little more effort early on could have helped put the Lakers away much sooner. There’s no reason to surrender 120 points to the worst team in the West and allow them to shoot 52%… especially after the positive progress of the last few games.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Cavs can hit that other gear defensively. They’ve already shown the star power they possess on the offensive side of the ball, and the ability to bring the wattage when the spotlight is brightest. But, the propensity to become a lock-down defensive juggernaut come the post-season may not be as ingrained in their collective DNA as it has been the past two years. Only time will tell if their dreams of a repeat championship will be realized, or if their inability to get stops will plague them. At least they’re done with the City of Stars for another season and can get back to focusing on the task ahead…

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57 Comments on "Recap: Cavs 125, Lakers 120 (or, City of Stars)"

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daspec90
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daspec90
2 days 17 hours ago

I thought that I had an abiding hatred of musicals, but La La Land revealed to me that I didn’t.

MikeO
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MikeO
2 days 18 hours ago

The Thunder are a terrible matchup for the Dubs. If they were to meet in the playoffs it would most likely be a sweep, with four blowouts.

Tim
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Tim
2 days 18 hours ago

Barnes making the Warriors even more obnoxious, if that’s possible.

Cols714
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Cols714
2 days 18 hours ago

Yep.

Cols714
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Cols714
2 days 21 hours ago

I’m curious as to where this idea that Lue isn’t a good coach originated?

Joe
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Joe
2 days 10 hours ago

When did it occur that Lue is a good coach?

Mike Podracky
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Mike Podracky
2 days 23 hours ago

Nice cap, EG. Love the La La Land tie in, which should have won best picture. Or it actually did for about two minutes. On the other hand, City of Stars should not have beaten out the Lin Manuel Miranda song, How Far I’ll Go, from Moana for best song. Sometimes I feel Lue’s rotations are like Pricewaterhouse at the Oscars………they both don’t realize their mistake until the wheels are already coming off.

Raoul
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Raoul
2 days 23 hours ago

Do you have a better rotation in mind? Let’s hear it.

Tim
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Tim
2 days 22 hours ago

Take Shump out of the game anytime he attempts to be Dion Waiters. Don’t get stuck on Deron Will until late in the fourth, get Kyrie his rest then bring him back. Use actual rotations, specifically for the big three that happens the same way ever game regardless of who relieves them/consistency. Rest TT regardless of his stupid streak.

Cols714
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Cols714
2 days 22 hours ago

This idea that the only way to have rotations is to have them the same way at the same times is, well, fraudulent. There are many ways to rotate the players in the NBA. Lue likes to experiment with lineups a ton during the regular season and then dial them in and change the gameplans for each and every playoff foe. Sometimes he has to make changes during the series to get stuff that works.

I don’t know why that’s so hard to accept. Especially, and this is important, while doing all of this he maintains first place in the east and finds games to rest his top guys and also won a title.

Tim
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Tim
2 days 22 hours ago

It’s not the f word, it’s science. With set rotations for the big 3, everyone else knows their role. It’s not a confusing mash of figuring things out Like it is now. Lue flies by the seat of his pants, that isn’t coaching.

Cols714
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Cols714
2 days 22 hours ago

So Lue didn’t coach when the Cavs trounced everyone in the east?
He didn’t coach when they were down 3-1 in the Finals?
He didn’t coach when he incorporated new pieces seemingly weekly this year while keeping the team in first place?

OK.

Tim
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Tim
2 days 22 hours ago

Cols, I’m preaching what you’ve said for awhile. You don’t need coaching when you have Lebron to win. Down 3-1, Lebron and Kyrie happened. They won despite their coach or lack thereof.

Cols714
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Cols714
2 days 23 hours ago

When have the wheels come off of Lue’s rotations? When they were winning the championship last year? When they were in first place this year? Like when did it happen?

Tim
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Tim
2 days 22 hours ago

He didn’t rotate in the playoffs, he played 8 guys and mainly just stayed out of the way so Lebron could do work. He’s an enabler, riding LeBron’s coattails, not a coach.

Cols714
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Cols714
2 days 22 hours ago

Sigh, you just don’t get it.

Tim
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Tim
2 days 22 hours ago

What is there to get? Lue exists because he doesn’t piss Lebron off. But that didn’t mean the Cavs are the best they could be with actual coaching.

Tim
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Tim
2 days 22 hours ago

Wish there was an edit option lol, doesn’t not didn’t

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
2 days 23 hours ago

Will Farrell doing his best Cols impersonation:

“If you were a hot dog and you were starving, would you eat yourself?”

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 1 hour ago

Did you investigate the Americans EG? I couldn’t find anything on IMDB.

worldbfree
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worldbfree
3 days 3 hours ago

As far as all the claptrap about resting the Big Three against the Clips…

…why does nobody talk about the insanity of all the back-to-backs of the NBA regular season?

I haven’t looked at how many b-to-bs other teams have, but the Cavs have 17 this year — not to mention 5 in the final 4 weeks of the season. If JVG and Mark Jackson are going to spend half the broadcast yapping about the softness of players, you’d think they could at least MENTION that it’s a symptom of the league (and owners) wanting to squeeze 82 games out of the regular season.

If the Celts catch us for the top seed, the four remaining b-to-b’s will be a huge contributing factor.

warriorsfan
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warriorsfan
2 days 16 hours ago

Can state a fact that may not be in Cavs favor and without being attacked.

Last year, in regular season, Warriors traveled for league leading, 53575 miles, Cavs last with 35055 miles. So, I have to say the schedule and travel is not good for anyone but if you are last in traveled miles, it is favoring you and if I were cavs fans, I may want NBA to continue this. This year, I read a report somewhere, Warriors are surpassing even that from last year. Kings, 90 miles from Warriors are have traveled 5K less than warriors.

The Golden State Warriors are the NBA’s champions of frequent-flyer miles, too

warriorsfan
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warriorsfan
2 days 16 hours ago

“if I were cavs fans, I may want NBA to continue this” should read as “if I were cavs fans, I may want NBA to continue this unless you want to be fair but when does fans ever want it to be fair if that favors you :-) “

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
3 days 2 hours ago

In addition. They all talk about “in my day” blah blah blah. Well the old days teams weren’t routinely flying across country. And in the old days teams played exactly like you just saw the Cavs do: screw around for 40 minutes then turn it on for the win.

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 1 hour ago

Yes. This is an important point. The intensity of 2017 NBA>any other era of NBA basketball.

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
3 days 1 hour ago

I don’t know about that. But they certainly travel more than the 70s

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 1 hour ago

Watch a game from the 1980s and then watch Houston-Cleveland from two sundays ago and you will see a tremendous difference in intensity on the defensive end of the court.

MikeO
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MikeO
3 days 59 minutes ago

Or you could watch the first three quarters from last night’s game and see no difference at all….

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 2 hours ago

I really doubt the Celtics can catch us. We are up 2.5 games with only 12 to go. Pretty hard to make up that gap.

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 4 hours ago

One sign of a great team is that they can turn it on when they need to. We saw that last night.

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
3 days 3 hours ago

You should write fortune cookies.

JMay
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JMay
3 days 4 hours ago

They don’t always turn it on…

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 5 hours ago

Nate, sorry about your Dukies. But the rest of America is happy.

Also there was a weird article on how the fraudulent team was upset about how Durant was boo’d in his OKC debut. Those guys are such entitled arrogant jerks.

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
3 days 5 hours ago

I root for Kent or the Zags this year. I’ve been over Duke for a decade.

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
3 days 5 hours ago

I didn’t watch any college this weekend. No biggy.

Simmo
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Simmo
3 days 5 hours ago

Thanks EG – good writeup of an odd but ultimately good game. Can I also share this chuckle. Because it broke me.

Nate Smith
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Nate Smith
3 days 5 hours ago

Great flick and Great recap. I was late to the LT cause I was watching Hell or High w
Water, another great film.

Kyrie is an insane scorer and a maddening defender. He almost seems like he’s trying to be bad at times. He fails to do the simplest things. Just force Russell left. Just try to guard someone on a p/r. If you get picked, impede the roller… Kyrie does none of these things.

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 5 hours ago

Until the playoffs. So it’s fine. They are in first place.

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 7 hours ago

That was a fun game to watch.

Elijah Kim
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Elijah Kim
3 days 7 hours ago

43-28 Cavs in the fourth with 26 points coming with 5:35 left in the game. Cavs fortunately don’t have to play a b2b in playoffs but this is their first win of the season on the 2nd night of b2b.

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 7 hours ago

Wow. Great 4th quarter.

Cols714
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Cols714
3 days 8 hours ago

Thanks EG. Should’ve gone to the game.

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