Lakers show persisting problems in 100-94 loss to Cleveland

CLEVELAND – The only festive spirit the Lakers have displayed this holiday season takes place before the game where Dwight Howard yucks it up with reporters and teammates.

Other than that, the Lakers have looked like they drank bad egg nog. The Lakers continued leaving a sour taste, the latest featuring a 100-94 loss Tuesday to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena.

Wonder how the latest debacle just happened? Go back to your DVR and watch plenty of the other Lakers (9-13) losses. They’ll look pretty similar. They couldn’t handle the ball (committing 18 turnovers). The Lakers didn’t get back on defense, yielding 24 points off those turnovers. They couldn’t make free throws (25 of 40 from the line). Only Kobe Bryant scored most of the points (42 points on 16 of 28 shooting).

So much for the Lakers following up on coach Mike D’Antoni’s expectation that they’ll go 4-0 on their week-long trip.

Instead, the Lakers lost their eighth contest in the past 11 games against an opponent that boasts the third worst record in the Eastern Conference (5-17). The Lakers are also the fourth worst team in the Western Conference. For those with a foggy memory, the Lakers also fell to the basement dwelling Cavaliers two years ago. The picture likely won’t look prettier when the Lakers play Thursday against the Eastern Conference’s best team, the New York Knicks (15-5), which has won all eight of their home games.

The Lakers looked as out of place as when Howard spent time before the game singing Chinese with a foreign reporter.

D’Antoni started Jordan Hill at power forward instead of Antawn Jamison while Pau Gasol heals from knee tendinitis, an injury that has already sidelined him for five games. Instead of energy, Hill posted two points on 1 of 6 shooting and became the victim of Andereson Varejao’s one-handed dunk.

The Lakers featured plenty of plays for Howard in the post, yet he only finished with 19 points on nine field goal attempts. At least, Howard fared better at the foul line (13 of 22).

Bryant may make little of the Lakers’ 1-10 stat when he scores at least 30 points. But his effort featured a wide selection of Bryant hoisting shots over double teams, late in the shot clock and far away from the basket.

The Lakers also expressed little interest in guarding CJ Miles on the perimeter (28 points on 10 of 18 shooting). In hist first game since missing the last 11 because of a fractured right index finger, Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving also sliced and diced the Lakers defense en route to 28 points on 11 of 21 shooting. On one play, Irving dribbled around Howard by the free throw line before driving to the basket with little resistance from Jamison.

The lone defensive stop came in the third quarter when Irving matched up against Bryant in an isolation play. With memories still fresh from the 2012 rookie of the year challenging Bryant to one-on-one during U.S. Olympic training camp this summer, the crowd stood in anticipation. Iriving performed a few cross over dribbles, but Bryant swatted his shot with his left hand.

The play provided a perfect foil to Bryant’s lack of defense elsewhere. But the play also sparked the Lakers to a 17-11 run to close the gap to 68-62 at the end of the third quarter. They also proved fortunate the Cavaliers shot only 7 of 18 from the field in that frame.

The Lakers kept the game within single digits the rest of the game. Bryant’s three-pointer even narrowed the gap to 95-92 with 23 seconds left. But his attempt afterwards didn’t drop in the basket. All the while, the Lakers defense as if they all stood at the halfcourt line while the Cavaliers ran their sets.

Once it all ended, the Lakers walked off the court in single file fashion looking down toward the ground.

The Lakers’ problems persist, and it appears they’re doing nothing to fix them.

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