The build up to this summer’s NBA free agency hit a bit of a fever pitch on Sunday night with the Cleveland Cavaliers facing the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James received arguably a louder ovation during pregame introductions than what hometown hero Paul George was given this season when the Oklahoma City Thunder played at Staples Center.
James, who was the subject of billboards recruiting him to Los Angeles, was also the recipient of a fan sitting courtside in a customized Lakers jersey bearing James’ name and No. 23. He led the Cavaliers with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists but they hemorrhaged on defense in a 127-113 loss to the Lakers.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Julius Randle each scored 10 points in the first quarter, helping the Lakers to lead at the end of the first 12 minutes. They were stellar throughout, particularly Randle during a 22-6 run to close out the third quarter.
That gave the Lakers a 98-82 lead heading into the fourth, that was trimmed to 13 points before Isaiah Thomas scored seven straight against his former team to put the game out of reach. Thomas had 14 of his 20 points in the second half.
Randle again was the driving force for the Lakers, pouring in a career-high 36 points to go along with team-high 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The Lakers starting unit also enjoyed big nights, as Brook Lopez had 22 points, marking a third consecutive game he scored at least 20. Kyle Kuzma took on the challenge of defending James and was productive himself with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Lonzo Ball (five points) was the only Lakers starter to not score in double-figures, though he had three rebounds and seven assists while playing through foul trouble.
Jordan Clarkson managed just four points and had four assists in his first time playing against the Lakers, while Larry Nance Jr. had 16 points and eight rebounds.