Jan 14, 2013, 1:19 AM EDT
Mike D’Antoni has a long way to go before his stint as Lakers head coach will be viewed as anything close to a success. But he picked his motivational spot wisely, calling Sunday’s game against the Cavaliers essentially a must-win, and a starting point for L.A. to begin to get its miserable season back on track and pointed in the right direction.
For a single night, against a substandard opponent, the Lakers responded to the challenge. They came out focused and aggressive from the very start, and used a 37-point first quarter as a launching pad for an easy 113-93 victory, the team’s first since Dec. 28 to snap a six-game losing streak.
D’Antoni’s message to his team after Friday night’s loss to the Thunder was simple.
“I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,” he said. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got one shot at it, and everybody needs to get ready mentally and physically.”
The team was as focused mentally as we’ve seen in weeks, but physically wasn’t all the way there just yet. Pau Gasol missed his fourth straight game, still not medically cleared to return after suffering a concussion a week ago against Denver.
Dwight Howard was back, however, after missing the last three games with a shoulder injury. His presence was felt immediately, as he piled up 10 points and five rebounds in just over eight minutes of action in the first quarter, against a Cavaliers team missing the injured Anderson Varejao and having no one else on its roster remotely capable of slowing him. He ended up finishing with a dominant 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Kobe Bryant had 12 of his 23 points in the opening frame to go along with five assists, and he and Howard combined to go 8-of-11 from the field in that first quarter, while the Lakers defensively held their opponent to just over 36 percent shooting.
L.A. finished the night shooting 58 percent as a team, including hitting 13 of its 25 attempts from three-point distance, while holding Cleveland to just over 41 percent.
The thing that was most impressive about the Lakers performance on this night wasn’t necessarily the win over a far less-talented opponent. It was the way they came out from the opening tip and took care of business with an efficiency and effectiveness we’ve seen only in flashes that was the difference. The offense was executed with purpose, the ball moved fluidly to find the open man, and all five players on the floor were active and engaged defensively.
It doesn’t seem so impossible on a night like this one when it all comes together.
The Lakers lead didn’t dip below double digits the entire second half, and reached as many as 30 late in the fourth quarter when the Cavaliers had relented and the final period turned into nothing more than extended garbage time.
No one in L.A. is going to mistake this Cleveland team, now with a record of just 9-30 on the season, with one of the league’s elite. Their only threat to score in bunches comes from Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, and the latter is more of a volume shooter than an efficient scorer at this early stage of his career.
But D’Antoni was right when he said that the turnaround has to start sometime, and to the Lakers credit, at least for a single night, they finally stepped up and responded to the challenge.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:36 AM EDT
The Rockets have the right to match any offer.
Jul 1, 2015, 2:12 AM EDT
Lopez gets three years, $60 million; Young gets four years, $50 million.
Jul 1, 2015, 1:58 AM EDT
The Hawks, Nuggets and Kings are also interested.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:41 AM EDT
This was expected.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:39 AM EDT
A replacement for Nicolas Batum on the wing.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:15 AM EDT
Davis will be in New Orleans through at least 2020.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:13 AM EDT
Love said he was committed to Cleveland, now he is flirting with other teams.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
Kobe being in the room is not guaranteed, but it helps.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
I didn’t know he had that in him.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT
The Clippers want him, but they have other, larger concerns.
Jun 30, 2015, 8:16 PM EDT
It’s a deep pool of shooters in free agency.
Jun 30, 2015, 7:34 PM EDT
It’s the Lakers being the Lakers again.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:45 PM EDT
Mo Williams can still score, he’d be a good pickup for the Cavs.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:03 PM EDT
Monroe finally has the free agency he turned down a lot of cash to get.
Jun 30, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT
The big men will set the market.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT
There is a clear compromise of three years at the max, but will the Bulls and Butler get there
Jun 30, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT
Big men like LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan will shape the free agency landscape.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Sorry Scottie, LeBron is just the better player.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:03 PM EDT
He’s reportedly seeking a shorter deal, too, which negates L.A.’s inherent advantage.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
Shumpert is a restricted free agent, so Cavaliers can match any offer he might receive.
- Report: Kawhi Leonard, Spurs reach deal for five-year, $90 million contract extension 13
- Anthony Davis and Pelicans agree to five-year, $145 million contract extension 19
- Report: Kevin Love to meet with Lakers later in week 5
- Report: Lakers working to clear out more cap space to land both LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan 38
- PBT Extra: What players will most influence free agency? 1
- PBT Podcast: The top guys to watch as NBA free agency tips off 3
- Scottie Pippen: “I was LeBron James before LeBron James” 30
- Report: Kings probing John Calipari about his interest in coaching and running the team’s front office 22