Lakers Take the W with Westbrook off the Floor

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Updated: October 30, 2021
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It was the first real opportunity that the Cavs had to pay back Lebron for leaving Cleveland with their impressive and unforeseen good start to the season. Unfortunately, their efforts only lasted 3 quarters as Carmelo Anthony iced the game in the 4th with a pair of daggers from distance and turn the last 2 and half minutes into garbage time. It was a game with playoff intensity but a lack of precision from both sides sported 35 turnovers, Lakers committing 20 and the Cavs the other 15. Despite the valiant effort, the execution level was poor for both squads as it was clear these teams are still working themselves into form.

The Lakers came out heavy with Russell Westbrook looking determined to wash away all the negative narrative in a single quarter. Yet, their early lead was wiped clean by a 13-0 run by the Cavs to close at the first and a 10 turnover quarter by the Lakers. Despite starting enormous, with Bron at the 3, AD at the 4, and DeAndre Jordan at the 5, Los Angeles looked to have little interest protecting the paint as rookie Evan Mobley had several red carpet runs uncontested to the basket. Luckily for Lakers, this young Cleveland squad, though never lacking effort squandered several possessions per quarter. Especially young forward Lamar Stevens looked like he was on the Klutch payroll missing countless point-blank shots at the rim with no one around him.

The lead created in the 1st evaporated by halftime, and it was clear this game like so many that have played out early this season would be dictated by runs. Lebron will surely dominate the IG and Tik Tok streams tonight with his logo bomb from center court, but it’s quite transparent that he is still not 100 percent since the two-game hiatus he took with the ankle injury. Several times in transition, with the Cavs man down, Lebron contemplated to drive and then opted instead to set up the half-court offense. It is something that every team in the league is surely taking note of, that the weapon that has made King James the emperor of the modern error is currently not in his arsenal. He clearly has no intention to be the terrorizing night train with a head full of steam downhill in transition, and with him 1 for 10 from distance, if it wasn’t for the name on the back of the jersey it’s unlikely the home telecast would have made such a fuss about his play.

Cleveland took a two-point lead heading into the final quarter of the ball game but in the 4th the wheels came off the Caravan as the jumpers dried up and their lack of experience became exposed. But as a whole, the Cavs should be proud of where they are at this point in the season because it is something literally no one had foreseen. I predicted that Lauri Markkanen would be a good fit with the Cavs after the trade with Chicago but I meant long-term. And although he can hardly guard a non-moving object, the giant front-court of the Cavaliers appears to cause problems. Many, because of rookie phenom Evan 7 foot Mobley who clearly has the juice. His energy in the frontcourt in combination with the lunatic-like ascetics of Sexton in the backcourt is infectious. As much as they don’t want to max Sexton, and no team will with his lack of jumper and the tiny package it comes in, retaining him at the right price is the right thing to do.

Now for LA, they handled business and a win is a win, but to have playoff-like intensity with Cleveland through the most of 4 is telling for a team that was unanimously the title favorites for the West. A startling stat line shared during the game showed the Lakers are basically the worst 3rd quarter team in basketball. It is not a habit that championships squads should be building by being soft and reckless coming out of the locker rooms at halftime.

The story the Lakers will be trying to brush under the rug in this win is that in the final 8 minutes of the 4th quarter Russell Westbrook was nowhere to be found as Vogel went with Bazemore, Bradly, and Melo. The proof is in the pudding on this one, the trade for Westbrook was a blatant misstep. With two top 10 players already on the roster, they need defensive-minded shooters who can hit big-time open shots when it matters. And no matter how explosive Russ looked in the opening 6 minutes of the 1st, he just ain’t that guy. It will be more than interesting to see how he handles similar situations if he continues to get the Ben Simmons treatment in late-game situations…

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