LOS ANGELES – All Cleveland Cavaliers had to snatch their season long 12-game losing stripes were to see the old teammate LeBron James again.
Of course, James was not in uniform for the final matchup of season against Cleveland, dressed in a suit, while his new team continued to fight without his star. Cavs took advantage of beating the Lakers 101-95 on Sunday night.
The Cavs knows everything about the challenge to play without James. They have fallen to the bottom of the NBA positions and already exceeded the total loss last season. The Lakers start learning to fall to 3-7 without him.
Until late in the fourth quarter, when youngsters Kyle Kuzma tried to shoot the Lakers back in the game, James & # 39; s new girlfriends much like Cavs once did and waited for him to throw at his Superman cape and save the day.
Only there was no phone box inside the Staples Center. James could only see when he was working back from a groin injury.
Perhaps it was appropriate that Cedi Osman, one of James & # 39; favorite team chambers and one-time player, shone brightest in the star.
Aggressive from the opening tip, Osman scored 20 points on the 8-of-1
"It feels good to get out of the line," said Cavs leader Larry Drew. "Every time you go through a stretch like this it can be a bit hard on you. I know the players physically and mentally. I just want to see our guys grow. I want to see growth every game we play. We're not going to play well every game, we will not shoot the ball well every game, but from a wrong point of view I would like to see us grow past where we make the same mistake again. "
Rodney Hood, playing in a minute limitation due to a sore akillus, pierced through the pain along the way to an 18-point night. Rookie Collin Sixteen scored 17 points, including a snazzy drive to give Cavs an eight-point 1:27 remaining cushion.
Cavs needed it all as the Lakers repeatedly made it a possession game late in the fourth quarter before Cleveland capped a free throw line.
"I have said so before and said in pregame, one of our problems has been that we have done things in spores. I thought we came out well tonight, and we hit a few hops in the way, but For the most part, especially in the other half, we were able to maintain and close it out, "Drew said. "Think down the line we made the games we had to make. Defensively, we probably made some mistakes as well, but we shut it down and performed and did what we had to do to come up with a victory."
On one night, when the offense was hard to come by for both teams, Cleveland's defended defense was the difference.
Cavs, which is statistically the worst defense in the NBA story, held Los Angeles for only 95 points, the first team since Memphis on December 26 to avoid beating the century mark against Cleveland. The Lakers went 36-of-91 (39.6 percent) from the field and 7-of-34 (20.6 percent) from the 3-point range.
Which team is better without LeBron? Sunday night it was Cavs.
Cavs finally got the start they needed.
Cleveland built a 15-point lead in the first quarter, the largest of the game, behind a crisp offense that hit 12 of his first 17 shots. By the end of the quarter, Cavs had scored 32 points – their third consecutive quarter hit the 30-point mark.
Play of the game
Cavs & # 39; offense began to late. The Lakers closed the hole. After a fourth straight miss, Tristan Thompson and Alec Burks fought for an extra possession. Eventually, the Burks tore the ball away from the Lakers center JaVale McGee before he thundered down a dunk.
That kind of effort is what Drew has demanded lately. It lacked both New Orleans and Houston to open this long road trip.
Burks' offensive board and dunk ended a 3-minute scoring drought and pushed the lead back to seven points.
Cavs will make their fourth stop on this six-game tour as they play Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.