Game 38: Cavs at Lakers
The Lakers' injury list could probably make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They are missing their starting backcourt of Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee) and Steve Nash (nerve foot irritation).
But several key reserves are also out, including point guards Steve Blake (torn ulnar collateral ligament) and Jordan Farmar (left hamstring tear). That caused them to go out and sign D-League point guard Kendall Marshall, a former first-round pick in Phoenix. The offensively challenged Marshall dished out 16 assists on Tuesday.
Shooting guard Xavier Henry (right knee bone bruise) is also out. The good news is that valuable swingman Nick Young (sore back) was able to play, and play he did. He led all scorers with 28 points.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's team has a built-in excuse for all this poor play (they lost to the LA Clippers last Friday by 36 points).
The Cavs don't have much of an excuse.
They were pummeled by the Kings by 44 points on Sunday. They responded with a solid effort against the Lakers, the second quarter not withstanding. The Lakers scored 40 points on the Cavs in the second quarter and took a 63-57 lead at halftime.
Newly acquired forward Luol Deng got the Cavs off and rolling in the third quarter with three 3-point goals. He's not known as much of a long-range shooter, but he was 5 of 5 from behind the arc against the Lakers.
Deng scored 27 points for the Cavs. He added five rebounds, four assists and a steal. That's the kind of games he's capable of playing. He's so valuable to the Cavs, largely because of his spirited play.
Speaking of spirited play, Cavs center Anderson Varejao was outstanding with 18 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. The points and assists matched his season highs. He got up for the matchup against Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol.
I was thinking during the game, none of us know just how close Gasol came to playing for the Cavs. It might have been a possibility. I'm glad they got Deng instead. He's a better fit.
Gasol is a talented big man, as his 20 points and 12 rebounds can attest.
The Cavs are now 2-1 on this five-game, eight-day West Coast trip. Winning this game was imperative, since they play in Portland on Wednesday, a nasty back-to-back. They will be huge underdogs at the Rose Garden.
The Cavs got a good effort from shooting guard Dion Waiters with 17 points, 13 in the fourth quarter. That was needed, too, since Kyrie Irving was saddled with five personal fouls and was limited to just 30 minutes on the night.
The Cavs' long-range shooting was wildly effective, as they shot a season-high 77 percent from behind the arc (13 of 17). You're not going to see that kind of prowess from downtown very often in a game.
Don't look now, but the Cavs are just 1 1/2 games out of the No. 8 playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte (16-23) is currently the eighth seed in the East.
They are now 4-16 on the road this season. They need to split one of the remaining two games on the trip - at Portland on Wednesday or at Denver on Friday - for it to be a successful 3-2 trip.
UP NEXT: The Cavs travel to Portland at 10 p.m. Wednesday at Rose Garden.
C Anderson Varejao (6-11, 267) vs. Robert Sacre (7-0, 260)
Lakers - G Kobe Bryant, G Steve Nash