The Los Angeles Lakers desperately needed a win, and in LeBron James’ return to the lineup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, they got it. After a truly horrific first half, the team cleaned things up over the final two quarters and held Cleveland to just 16 points in the fourth to coast to a 113-101 win.
The Lakers somehow survived 10 first quarter turnovers to only end the frame down by seven points. That made their five-turnover second quarter somehow an improvement, and allowed them to tie the game up at 54 all heading into halftime. Helping matters was a renewed commitment to getting out on the break, including several Showtime-esque sequences from Russell Westbrook and James. If this team is going to succeed, it’s often going to come in transition, and they’re clearly committed to playing with pace. If they can get just figure out ways to get enough stops to get out and run a bit more, it will certainly help them in games like this one.
Things looked less positive to start the third, which the Cavs started on an early run. But the Lakers further cut back on their turnovers — only coughing up the ball five times in the second half — and were able to take an early lead in the fourth, led not just by James (26 points, 8 assists), Westbrook (19 points, 5 assists, 6 rebounds) and Anthony Davis (15 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks), but the patented advantage extension of Austin Reaves off the bench, and some solid minutes from his fellow reserve Avery Bradley on both ends of the floor.
Bradley hit arguably the key shot to push the Cavaliers back before the Carmelo Anthony floodgates opened, knocking down a key three with just under five minutes left in the final frame to extend the team’s lead. Bradley finished the game with 7 points on 3-5 shooting in 23 minutes, posting a team-high plus-minus of +30.
This was not a pretty game for much of the night, but the Lakers can’t be choosy about how their victories look at this point. And hey, on a night James shot horribly from behind the arc (1-10 shooting from deep), he got something he wouldn’t have last year: Support. The Lakers shot 42.3% from three as a team on the evening. This was the point of adding shooting, to give themselves wiggle room in games when their execution and defense isn’t perfect. In this one, the strategy worked.
This win moves the Lakers to 3-3 on the season, and will offer a nice relief from the pressure and scrutiny that was mounting following their embarrassing loss to the Thunder earlier this week. They’ll see if they can make this a winning streak this weekend when they host the Houston Rockets on Halloween.