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 previously missing nine games due to COVID protocols followed by additional time to ramp up his conditioning, big man Marc Gasol made his second straight start after posting five points and two rebounds in 15 minutes on Thursday.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak and gives Los Angeles (29-17) its first victory since LeBron James suffered a right high ankle sprain against the Atlanta Hawks on March 20.
It’s been a rough stretch for L.A. without James and Anthony Davis (calf), but things appear to be getting easier now that Gasol is back in the rotation. That was the case on Friday with Cleveland (17-28) in town for the only time all year and missing 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’ Third-Quarter Surge Downs 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 on a four-game losing streak, sometimes it’s the small things that help restore confidence that things will get better. Of course a matchup with one of the worst teams in the league will help that, too.
Despite struggling through a first half in which Los Angeles didn’t make a three pointer until 93 seconds before halftime, the Lakers couldn’t help but run away from the Cavs with lockdown defense and a scoring surge in the third quarter.
L.A. opened up the second half on a 19-6 run over seven minutes that saw the Cavs shoot one for their first 16 from the floor. Combined with a few late turnovers that led to transition dunks by the Lakers, it was more than enough to lock up a much-needed victory after an unquestionably rough stretch.
The four game losing streak matched Los Angeles’ longest of the season. Fortunately for the defending champs, that record will remain in tact a bit longer.
Gasol Continues To Ramp Up
Before the Lakers even took the court, things began looking a bit more optimistic for head coach Frank Vogel & Co. with word that Anthony Davis was cleared to increase his on-court rehab. While there’s still no definitive timeline for the All-Star’s return, it was a much-needed update for a club that’s seen too many negative health updates in recent days.
But just because Davis is getting closer to a return doesn’t mean fans should expect much from him right away when he gets back. Judging from how L.A. is using Marc Gasol in his return from an extended hiatus, the Lakers may continue to take things slow with Davis for a bit once he’s back in the rotation.
For the second straight night, Gasol played just 15 minutes after Vogel inserted him into the starting line.
The offense seldom ran through the big man as he continues to get back into game shape.
Instead, Gasol went 2-for-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 doesn’t take too long for L.A.—but it also shows the Lakers are willing to be patient with key players coming off an injury.
Plenty is riding on the return of James and Davis. They just won’t be asked to deliver on all of it right away.
The Lakers host another sub-.500 club on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET when the Orlando Magic visit the Staples Center while the Cavs head north to face the Sacramento Kings at 10 p.m. ET. It’s the third stop on a four-game road trip for Cleveland.