Russell Westbrook showed flashes of his best and worst on Monday as the Los Angeles Lakers slumped to a 2-7 record after a 114-100 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at home.
Westbrook made an immediate impact off the bench for the Lakers and finished the game with 19 points and 10 assists, although he also had seven turnovers in an all-round mixed display.
As for Cleveland, it was the Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland show, with the pair combining for 57 points after a particularly strong first half kept the Cavs in the game.
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The Lakers actually led 64-58 at halftime but a lack of respect for the ball in the third quickly saw them fall behind and they could not recover.
Anthony Davis, who declined to speak with media, also had a hot start but faltered in the second half, only managing two points to finish on 19 along with 12 boards and four assists.
LeBron James led the scoring for the Lakers with 27 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
It was a particularly disappointing result given how promising things looked early for L.A.
The Lakers made a fast start on Monday, jumping out to a 21-9 lead after six minutes after playing some of the basketball they have put up all season.
As expected, it was L.A.’s big three doing all the damage, with James (six points), Davis (seven points) and Westbrook (four points) all contributing.
Westbrook, who has been much-improved for the Lakers when coming off the bench, continued that trend early in Monday’s game.
He had 12 points and four assists off the bench as the Lakers took a 36-30 lead after the first quarter, with Davis putting up nine points, four boards and two assists by that point.
As for Cleveland, they were finding plenty of scoring opportunities at the free-throw line, with Mitchell scoring seven points alone at the charity stripe in the first quarter.
That continued into the second, with the Lakers leading 64-58 by halftime but still gifting the Cavaliers 23 free-throw attempts, with Mitchell and Garland combining for 15.
L.A.’s big three also maintained the intensity in the second quarter, with James, Davis and Westbrook all in double figures for points by halftime.
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The Lakers’ defence, meanwhile, was doing more than enough to make up for any lack of production elsewhere, holding the Cavaliers to under 40 per cent shooting from the field.
Fouls though remained an issue, as did Garland and Mitchell, who combined to score 42 of Cleveland’s 58 points in the first half.
The Cavaliers needed a quick start in the third quarter and found it, going on a 13-2 run as the Lakers went scoreless in the opening four minutes.
Cleveland would go on to outscore L.A. 29-16 in the third, taking a 87-80 lead into the final quarter.
While Westbrook led the Lakers with 10 assists by that point, he also had a team-high seven turnovers and the Cavaliers were really starting to make him pay for them.
Cleveland had scored 21 points off L.A.’s 15 turnovers in the first three quarters and another poor pass from Westbrook was then stolen by Dean Wade and turned into a Cavs 3-pointer.
That prompted the Lakers to call a timeout, now trailing 92-80 but there was seemingly little they could do to stop the Cavaliers, who jumped out to a 98-85 lead with nine minutes left.
Cleveland just did not let up from there, seeing the Lakers pull all their primary players from the court in the latter stages of the game.
Funnily enough, L.A. then got within nine points with two minutes left to threaten to make a game of it but in the end the Cavaliers took the win.
Mitchell, a three-time All-Star guard who joined the Cavaliers from the Utah Jazz in September, has scored 30 or more points in six of eight games with his new team.
He said Cleveland, trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign, wasn’t focused on their former star James.
“I grew up a Cavs fan so I’m very aware of LeBron, but I don’t think that was what we brought into the game,” Mitchell said.
“You’ve always got to have respect for greatness,” he said, but noted: “At the end of the day, we’re here to win.”
Elsewhere, Fred VanVleet returned from a three-game injury absence to score 30 points and hand out 11 assists to help the Raptors beat the Chicago Bulls 113-104 in Toronto.
With Toronto leading scorer Pascal Siakam sidelined, all five Raptors starters scored in double figures.
O.G. Anunoby scored 22 points and Scottie Barnes put up 19 points with 10 rebounds as the Raptors bounced back from a heartbreaking 111-110 loss to Dallas on Friday.
DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points to lead six Bulls players in double figures. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but Chicago lost a second straight game.
The Bulls coughed up 17 turnovers leading to 23 points for Toronto. But they were down by just one point after Patrick Williams’s dunk with 4:23 remaining.
The Raptors responded with a three-point play by VanVleet and Anunoby came up with a steal and a driving dunk as Toronto pulled away again.
In Memphis, Desmond Bane and Ja Morant combined for 51 points as the Grizzlies beat the short-handed Washington Wizards 103-97.
Despite the absence of Washington’s leading scorer Bradley Beal, the Wizards seized a quick 9-0 lead before the Grizzlies found their range.
Bane scored 28 points and Morant added 23 with nine rebounds and six assists for Memphis, who led 57-43 at halftime, pushed the advantage to as many as 23 in the third quarter and turned back the Wizards’ comeback bid in the fourth.
Meanwhile in the late game, the Jazz claimed another scalp in defeating the Clippers 110-102 behind 55 combined points from Jordan Clarkson and Colin Sexton.
Paul George’s 34 points led LA, who continues to play without Kawhi Leonard (knee), while the Clippers were dealt another blow after Reggie Jackson sustained a knee injury late in the game.
With John Wall set to rest on the second end of a back-to-back for the Clippers on Tuesday against Cleveland, it will likely leave Tyrone Lue’s team without a true point guard for the clash.
CAVS 114 LAKERS 100
BULLS 104 RAPTORS 113
WIZARDS 97 GRIZZLIES 103
JAZZ 110 CLIPPERS 102