Dribbles: LeBron, Lakers Drop Roadblock on Cavaliers

Sam Amico

Random dribbles following the Cavaliers' 128-99 road loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.

1. It's too bad for the Cavs that the game couldn't end at halftime. Or better yet, at the end of the first quarter.

2. It truly was the tale of two halves. The Cavs started off with great energy and controlled the pace. They raced to an 8-2 advantage, and get this -- it was the Lakers' largest deficit in NINE games. 

3. Tristan Thompson started off defending LeBron James and did a very nice job. Keep in mind that Thompson is a center and spent the previous two games guarding the likes of Detroit's Andre Drummond and Denver's Nikola Jokic. Those are two massive men who Thompson could out-quick. But LeBron ... well, we know who has the edge in perimeter athleticism there.

4. Eventually, the Lakers' length just wore down the Cavs. It got to the point where the Cavs couldn't make a pass or get a decent look at the basket. LA leads the league in blocked shots and it showed. The Lakers also sped up the game in the second half, and the poor Cavs just couldn't sustain their impressive start.

5. And to think the Lakers didn't even have injured All-Star power forward Anthony Davis.

6. Cavs coach John Beilein to reporters: "I really loved the way we competed in the first half. We played hard and played smart. But when the pendulum began to swing, we couldn't stop it. LeBron took matters into his own hands, as he has for years. We didn't have any answers."

7. The Cavs (12-28) led by as many as 14 points in the first quarter. They were within 56-55 in the third. Then James propelled the Lakers to a 73-40 run, as only James can -- dissecting the defense, delivering passes to perimeter shooters and imposing his will near the rim.

8. Basically, not even age has slowed down James, now 35 years old. For most of the game, he looked mostly pedestrian. Then he checked out a final time and you looked up at his numbers — 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting, with eight assists. Still as amazing as ever.

9. For the Cavs, Kevin Love started off hot and finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Thompson went for 17 points and 10 boards. Games such as this in front of the tinsel and buzz of Hollywood are also a good experience for Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Each finished with 16 points and four assists.

10. Love on the loss: "They just keep coming at you. I thought we played great in the first half. We were moving the ball and sharing it. In the second half, you just gotta hand it to them. It wasn't for a lack of effort on our part. You can just see why they're way up there, if not the best team in the league."

11. This marked the first time Love faced James since James left Cleveland in the summer of 2018. "He just continues to let the game come to him and he plays with such a good pace, especially with this team," Love said. "He seemingly keeps getting better. He’s found the fountain of youth."

12. But hey, the Cavs are still 2-1 halfway through their six-game swing that takes them to all four time zones. It's strange to say when you trail by 32 and allow 88 points in the second half, but the Cavs have been competing. 

13. It just got to the point where the Lakers looked like they were playing a different sport. The Cavs don't have the talent or depth to match up. Not many teams do, as the Lakers (33-7) have won nine straight.

14. Cedi Osman added a fairly quiet 15 points for the Cavs. John Henson came back off the bench and scored seven points. He hadn't played recently, with Beilein opting instead for Ante Zizic. But Zizic sat out with vertigo. (You can read more about that here.) Interestingly, Matthew Dellavedova did not play.

15. Dwight Howard added 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting for the Lakers. He also grabbed 15 rebounds. He also hit a 3-pointer, and it was at that point that you knew this one was over.

16. Next up: The Cavs have no time to sulk. They return to the Staples Center on Tuesday to face another title contender in Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. "We will have to clean up a couple things," Love said. "They're another good team, a deep team. They're playing on a high level and we'll have to bring it."