Brandon Ingram vs. Cleveland
Brandon Ingram drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 13, 2019.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

LeBron-Less Lakers Stunned by Cavs

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

LeBron James left a gargantuan hole in the Cleveland Cavaliers, who reached last year’s NBA Finals with him, and sport the league’s current worst record without him.

LeBron has now left a similar void in the Lakers, who fell to 3-7 since their superstar went down with a groin injury, losing to his former team, 101-95.

“Right now we’re playing for positioning within the playoffs,” Kyle Kuzma said. “We just dug ourselves into a bigger hole right now.”

With one of the Lakers’ worst losses of the season, they are now tied with Utah for eighth place in the Western Conference.

Cleveland (9-35) entered the night on a 12-game losing streak. Despite that baggage, the Cavs were much more assertive from the jump, taking a 15-point lead in the first quarter.

The Lakers’ frustrated head coach is now mulling a change to his opening five of Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram and JaVale McGee.

“We might have to do something to the starting lineup right now,” Luke Walton said. “Every game it feels like we’re giving up 30-plus points in that first quarter, so we’ll take a closer look a that.”

The Lakers (23-21) had their chances but never regained the lead. In spite of a furious 18-point, seven-rebound fourth quarter from Kuzma, L.A. could not get its deficit any lower than three.

And while Kuzma finished with a game-high 29 points and nine boards, he was far from impressed by his own display.

“As a team, we need to be more engaged in the sense of having effort,” Kuzma said. “That starts with me. I played like crap today. Not bringing that energy — that’s what we need to compete and play in all these games.”

The purple and gold received solid individual performances. Brandon Ingram added 22 points, while Lonzo Ball pieced together 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

But the Lakers’ team offense — which ranks last in the league since James’ injury — could not take advantage of the NBA’s worst defense. L.A. shot just 39.6 percent from the field, 20.6 on 3-pointers and 59.3 on free throws.

“Frustrating loss,” Walton said. “We have to play better. We have to make shots. We have to make free throws. But like I’ve said, I believe in this group and I believe that this group will play better and we’ll start winning games.”

Cleveland was led by Cedi Osman’s 20 points, plus double-doubles from Alec Burks (17 points, 13 rebounds) and Tristan Thompson (15 points, 14 rebounds). … Josh Hart shot just 1-of-8 on 3-pointers, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed all six of his. … Metta World Peace, Scottie Pippen, George Lopez and Arsenio Hall were among the sold-out crowd.

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