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LeBron James credits Lakers bench for role in Cavs win

Only playing eight players versus the Cavaliers, the bench players stepped up big carrying a larger load and helping the Lakers pull off the road win.

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

With four players ruled out against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers started their four-game road trip short-handed and playing only eight guys.

What had the potential to be a blowout loss ended up being one of the most impressive wins of the season. Los Angeles pulled off the win 121-115 by outscoring the Cavs in the fourth quarter to beat LeBron James' former team.

It was an all-hands-on-deck scenario, with seven of the eight players finishing the night with double-digit points. The bench mob of Jaxson Hayes, Austin Reaves and Christina Wood were particularly impressive, contributing a combined 38 points and going 14-20 from the field.

The effort did not go unnoticed by James, who spoke about the bench's effort after the game.

"We built this roster for myself and AD not to carry a huge load and, obviously, we haven't reached our potential just yet, but we also haven't been in a full rhythm or a full team just yet as well," James said postgame. "But tonight was, I mean, 34 assists on 47 field goals, that's big time. We have four or five guys with multiple assists, over three assists. I think that helps. So when that ball is popping like that, everybody's feeling a good rhythm. I think the guys off the bench did an unbelievable job. Austin, Jax and C-Wood were great off the bench. We needed that spark from them and the starters did pitch in as well."

What's been most impressive about Hayes, not just in this victory but this year, is his ability to pick his spots and not play beyond his capabilities. He's not a high-volume shooter, but when he takes a shot at the basket, it usually goes in. He's shooting 76% from the field, the highest percentage of his career.

Against the Cavs, he was a perfect 5-5 with all his shots occurring in the second quarter during the Lakers' first-half surge, which helped keep them in the game when Cleveland was threatening to extend their lead and take over the game.

Since being relegated to the bench, Austin Reaves has found his groove, averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds in this role. On Saturday, eight of his 15 points came in the fourth quarter, and, with the game hanging in the balance, Reaves was on the court icing the game by hitting his free throws. He may not be starting, but he's a player the team can trust and he's rewarded that confidence by playing well in key moments.

As James stated, this roster was designed to help James and Anthony Davis not have to carry a large load. Now, with both players in the top two in minutes played, points, and rebounds, it is hard to say that the load has gotten lighter this season.

However, Saturday is a prime example of what the bench guys can do to lighten the load. Produce during your time and be a positive on the floor so Davis and James don't have to play hero ball to close out a team.

The Lakers will need more of that from this bench core during this road trip and throughout the season to rack up as many wins as possible while not exhausting their going-on 39-year-old superstar.

You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.

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