Before the game, the roster and rotation were in disarray. Patrick Beverly was ruled out due to non-covid illness, and coach Darvin Ham opted to add Kenrick Nunn to the starting lineup. Nunn has been out of the rotation and was given the start to keep Russell Westbrook on the bench as a super sub.
Nunn started well with a beautiful assist to Anthony Davis, which led to a quick dunk, but the main standout in the first quarter was Russ. He came in at the 7:59 mark of the first quarter and was nothing short of spectacular. He was 5-6 from the field and brought unmatched energy and exuberance, motioning to the crowd that the defenders were too little and shimmying on the floor after a tough And-1 basket. Since coming off the bench, it’s been more of Russ being Russ. The Lakers ended the quarter up 36-30, which was, believe it or not, the first time they won the opening quarter all season.
In the second frame, the Lakers continued applying pressure on the Cavs’ frontcourt. Clevland had no answer for Russ, LeBron, or AD driving to the paint. All three ended in double digits in the first half, and the Cavs couldn’t close the gap and ended the quarter 28 even; the Lakers took their six-point lead to the locker room at halftime.
But these Lakers have lost every third quarter this season except for one (in their victory against the Denver Nuggets), and in Sunday’s matinee, things started badly in the third once again. Donovan Mitchell continued hitting his threes, Jarret Allen got an easy slam, and the Cavs started with a 13-2 run and earned their first lead of the game.
Darvin Ham adjusted and brought Russ in to end the scoring drought, which he did with an alley-oop dunk to AD on his first possession back. Another Lonnie layup and a Russ to Bron connection, and the Lakers killed the Cavs momentum and evened up the game.
Westbrook has 3 assists already since checking in around the 8-minute mark of the 3rd Q, totaling 8 in his 18 minutes, helping stop a Cavs run that had them up by 5.— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) November 6, 2022
But with AD drawing his fourth foul, he had to sit on the bench at the four-minute mark. Wenyen Gabriel came in and gave a valiant effort and contesting shots and making the occasional basket. The Lakers ended the third, losing the quarter battle once again, 29-16. And just like that, a six-point lead turned into a seven-point deficit heading into the final frame.
In the fourth, the Cavs shut the door on the purple and gold, continuing their third-quarter run and scoring 17 unanswered points; down by double digits, the Lakers were unable to ever regain the lead. On the Cleveland side, Donovan Mitchell had himself a game, scoring 33 points, and the Lakers fell to 2-7 on the season.
No rest for the Lake show this week, with three more games coming up, including tomorrow’s matchup against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers will have to find a way to go from moral victories to actual ones, and do so fast, as a 2-7 record in a competitive West doesn’t bode well for their playoff hopes. If there’s a good team in here somewhere, Darvin Ham needs to find it quickly.