By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: No amount of strategizing, scheming and screaming can fix what’s wrong with the Cavaliers right now. According to the people in the locker room, they just need to play harder.
For sounding so simple, they sure are having a difficult time figuring it out.
The Los Angeles Lakers started with eight healthy bodies and finished with five, but had little trouble humiliating the Cavs on Wednesday with a 119-108 victory.
The Lakers were without Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, among others, but made 18 3-pointers, shot 53 percent and led by as many as 29 before a furious fourth-quarter rally by the Cavs’ reserves.
The Lakers ended a seven-game losing streak and had lost 19 of their past 22 games, but began Wednesday making their first six 3-pointers to effectively put the game out of reach by the end of the first quarter when they led 36-17.
“All defense is, is effort at the end of the day,” Jarrett Jack said. “Nobody can control that but you. Coach can scream and yell, anybody can scream and yell, but it comes down to a man and each individual person in this locker room has to look in the mirror and understand what your responsibility is. No. 1 is play hard and understand your coverages.”
When Kendall Marshall’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter gave the Lakers a 39-17 lead, the Lakers had made as many 3-pointers (seven) as the Cavs had baskets.
Mike Brown ignored his starters for the fourth quarter and stuck with a lineup of Anderson Varejao, Dion Waiters, C.J. Miles, Anthony Bennett and Matthew Dellavedova for the bulk of it. That group chopped an 18-point deficit to start the quarter to 114-108 in the final minute, but Steve Blake’s 3-pointer with 57 seconds left pushed the lead back to nine and clinched the win.
Brown thought about going back to Kyrie Irving and a couple other starters at one point late in the game, but thought that would’ve been unfair to the group that pulled the Cavs back in the game. So he left Irving and the rest on the bench and refused to make a sub for the game’s final 7:25.
Brown said afterwards if the starters left on the bench want to take it as a message delivered, he’s fine with that.
“If I was Coach, I would’ve played that second group as long as he did as well,” said Irving, who didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter. “They deserved to be in. They were fighting until the end.”
Brown said he didn’t switch any coverages at either end with the reserves. The schemes were all the same, the guys on the floor simply played harder.
“I applaud the last group of guys who were out there,” Brown said. “Maybe we can learn something from what that group did out on the floor.”
The Lakers effectively ended the game with an ineligible player. Nick Young left in the first half with a knee injury and Chris Kaman fouled out in the fourth quarter. When Robert Sacre fouled out later in the quarter, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni told the officials he was out of healthy players. Jordan Farmar began the night with a tender hamstring that flared up on him.
Sacre was allowed to remain in the game despite fouling out, but every ensuing foul (he didn’t have any more) would’ve counted as a technical. Just another crazy twist in a strange night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Miles had 27 points off the bench, Varejao had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Bennett had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Irving had 11 points, six rebounds and four assists through three quarters. The Cavs matched their longest losing streak of the season at six games and have dropped eight of their past nine to fall farther and farther out of contention for the final playoff spot in the woeful Eastern Conference.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.