The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 116-102 as L.A. couldn’t keep up with the young Cavs offense without Anthony Davis — who left the Tuesday clash in the first quarter due to flu-like symptoms.
Motivated by his return to Cleveland as always, James stepped up after Davis went down, putting up 21 points and 17 rebounds — collecting the most boards since 2016-17. But the Lakers couldn’t make stops when Jarrett Allen, Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland had the ball, resulting in their first defeat of the current road trip.
James and Allen traded dunks to open the game with the Cavaliers center starting on a high note in his return from a five-game absence. Allen scored eight quick points as the Cavaliers took an early 19-9 lead amid L.A.’s shooting struggles from beyond the arc.
Russell Westbrook provided a spark on offense in his first shift off the bench, making a couple of layups to help the Purple and Gold tie the game.
The Lakers struggled to contain the Cavs’ pick-and-roll play, allowing Allen to go a perfect 7-for-7 from the field for 14 points in the first quarter — and giving the hosts a 27-26 lead.
Bryant stepped up in Davis’ absence, scoring 11 points and collecting 4 boards before halftime. James and Westbrook combined for 21 points as L.A. and Cleveland went neck-in-neck for the majority of the second quarter — with buckets coming almost exclusively from the paint.
But Mitchell switched gears toward the end of the period, chalking up eight points in three minutes to secure a 57-49 lead for Cleveland at the break.
Dennis Schroder scored a quick seven points early in the third to bring the Lakers back within three. And the score remained close until Bryant and Austin Reaves committed a couple of turnovers in quick succession, leading to a nasty dunk from Mitchell that gave the Cavaliers a nine-point advantage with 4:07 left in the quarter.
The Lakers kept attacking Cleveland’s rim and getting rewarded with trips to the free-throw line that helped reduce the deficit again. The game entered the fourth quarter with the Cavaliers holding a slender 84-83 lead.
Notably, Damian Jones made an impact in what would be his longest shift since early November, generating extra possession for L.A. with a couple of offensive boards.
Evan Mobley sat on the bench shortly after the final period started as he picked up his fifth foul. But even though over 70% of Cleveland’s points were coming from Allen, Garland, and Mitchell, the Lakers struggled to restrain the Cavaliers trio. Meanwhile, L.A. made only four buckets in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter and fell seven points behind.
The Purple and Gold eventually capitulated with the Cavaliers dealing heavy damage in transition to extend their lead, before securing the win.
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