Dribbles: Cavs’ Youth Can’t Keep Pace With LeBron, Lakers

CLEVELAND — Random dribbles following the Cavaliers’ 131-120 home loss to the Lakers on Monday.

1. LeBron James always seems to save his best for the Cavs, and he was indeed very good on this night.

LeBron James
NBA/Getty via David Liam Kyle

2. But it was the other guys who truly buried them.

3. Names such as D.J. Augustin, Austin Reaves and Malik Monk were really the killers. Even Russell Westbrook got in on it. You never know what you’re going to get from any of those players. But on this night, James found them open, and they made the Cavs pay.

4. The Lakers started the fourth quarter 15-of-18 shooting. Some of that was the Cavs’ inexperience defensively. Some of it was the Cavs leaving the right guys open … and those guys hitting those shots, anyway.

5. LeBron is 37 years old, his team isn’t very good, the Cavs are much-improved, and yet they still can’t beat him. He is 17-1 against his former team. 

6. For the Cavs and their fans, that has to be frustrating.

7. This wasn’t a terrible effort for the Cavs. Far from it. But it was clearly a game in which they really missed Jarrett Allen. The Lakers seemingly got whatever they wanted in the paint. That probably wouldn’t have happened with a healthy Allen.

8. As it stands, the Cavs were mostly defenseless. Giving up 131 points in regulation isn’t going to win you too many games. You likely don’t need me to tell you that. Last time the Cavs gave up so many points? The season-opener vs. the Grizzlies.

9. Either way, never forget the Cavs are a younger team that is still trying to find its way. That became evident after they built a 14-point lead … then fell flat. They just didn’t have the legs or know-how to overcome things once the Lakers got hot.

10. Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff: “We just didn’t play the way were capable of. There wasn’t enough grit, there wasn’t enough scrap. … Defensively, we didn’t play with the resistance needed to give ourselves a chance.

11. Offensively, the Cavs were mostly fine. Darius Garland was mostly fantastic, finishing with 29 points and 16 assists. Lauri Markkanen added 18 points and nine boards, and Lamar Stevens scored 16 on 8-of-12 shooting.

12. The Cavs shot 50 percent from the field. Not bad. Problem was, the Lakers shot 65 percent. That’s just sizzling. Unfortunately for the Cavs (41-31), the Lakers shooting that way was very uncharacteristic. 

13. Entering the game, the Lakers had lost 13 of 17. But they have the ability to put it all together, and when they do, they can be dangerous.

14. In all, six Cavs scored in double figures, with Caris LeVert (13 points), Evan Mobley (ditto) and Isaac Okoro (12, 4-of-4 on 3-pointers) all contributing in their own way. Though at times, Mobley’s inexperience showed.

15. James erupted for another triple-double — 38 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. He looked every bit as good as at any other time this season. You could even make the case this was his best game of the year. And remember, he scored 56 vs. the Warriors a few weeks ago.

16. Westbrook added 20 points and 11 assists in also one of his best games, and Augustin scored 20 on 7-of-7 shooting. This is a man the Lakers claimed off the waiver wire. But on this night, he looked like Stephen Curry.

17. Just the Cavs’ luck, right?

18. But all they can do is take the approach of “on to the next.” And they have some biggies coming up, starting with Thursday’s road game against the Raptors. They return home two nights later to face the Bulls. Neither of those teams have LeBron, but given that they’re both East opponents, those games are actually more meaningful.

19. In case you missed it, both Allen and power forward Dean Wade are expected out for several more weeks. You can read more about Allen right here, and more about Wade right here.

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