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It wasn’t the most meaningful shot of the night, but in some ways it was. Dwight Howard hit a three-pointer and the Staples Center crowd erupted in euphoria. He left the game not long after that – what more could he do?
Howard finished with a season high 21 points and 15 rebounds in the Lakers’ 128-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The win ensured the Lakers continued their undefeated streak against teams with losing records. They have now improved to 33-7, while the Cavaliers fell to 12-28.
LeBron James scored 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting with eight assists and the game was well in hand against his former team.
Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Alex Caruso and Howard each scored in double figures. Howard notched a double double with 21 points and 15 rebounds, even making a three-pointer.
The Lakers got some bad news heading into the game. Rajon Rondo was given an MRI on Monday that revealed a non-displaced volar plate avulsion fracture on his right ring finger. The injury is sometimes referred to as a jammed finger. Last year, Rondo had two surgeries on his right hand, one of which was on his right ring finger.
Anthony Davis also missed Monday’s game, making it the third consecutive game he’d missed after suffering a bruised buttocks against the New York Knicks on January 7.
The Lakers played in Dallas on Friday and Oklahoma City on Saturday, winning both games despite not having Davis for either. The next day, Davis and Rondo were among a group of players who went to Green Bay for their playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. Davis, though a Chicago native, is a longtime Packers fan.
“They mentioned it to Rob, Rob mentioned it to me and it’s an off day and it’s something that we endorse,” Lakers Coach Frank Vogel said of their trip. Vogel also said the Lakers’ medical team did not take issue with the players attending the game.
It was a more complete starting lineup than the Lakers had against the Thunder on Saturday, when Davis, LeBron James and Danny Green missed the game. On Monday against Cleveland, the Lakers had all their regular starters except Davis, for whom Kyle Kuzma started.
They faced an overmatched but spunky Cavaliers team that was coming off a win over the Denver Nuggets.
Cleveland took advantage of a sluggish start by the Lakers to take a 10-point lead in the first. They led by only six at the end of the period, due to a buzzer-beater by Kuzma. The 21-foot jumper was Kuzma’s only make of seven shot attempts in the first quarter. The Lakers
The second quarter wasn’t kinder to the Lakers and the Cavaliers extended their lead to 14. Back-to-back scores from Jared Dudley cut the lead from 12 to seven.
By halftime the Lakers had cut their deficit to just one. At that point, no Laker had scored in double digits, though Dwight Howard had eight points and nine rebounds. Kevin Love scored 12 first-half points while Tristan Thompson added 13 for the Cavaliers, two of which he followed with a little stare-down and some trash talk for James.
Their energy changed after the break. Led by James, they scored 37 points, with James making all four shots he attempted and scoring nine points. Overall, the Lakers made 63.6% of their third quarter shots. They also outscored the Cavaliers on fast breaks 13-0. They’d started the game with zero fast-break points in the first quarter.
Cleveland, meanwhile, committed seven turnovers in the third quarter, as they dug themselves into an insurmountable hole.