LOS ANGELES — Tyronn Lue was channeling Apollo Creed’s trainer from Rocky: “He doesn’t know it’s a damn show! He thinks it’s a damn fight!”
“Sometimes you have to understand it is not a show but a competition,” the Cavaliers’ coach said after his team came from behind to beat the Lakers Sunday night at Staples Center. “When we get to L.A. and play teams like this we consider it a show instead of a competition. When you get down early it hurts your confidence, and now you got to fight and try and win your game.”
The Cavaliers coasted defensively through three quarters, the Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell got hot, and it took LeBron James taking over like an MVP for a stretch in the fourth — and Kyrie Irving dropping 46 — for Cleveland to get out of the building with a 125-120 win.
The Cavaliers should have been rested since LeBron, Irving, and Kevin Love all having sat out on Saturday against the Clippers (Irving and Love were coming off injuries, the Cavaliers didn’t want to play them in a back-to-back, so they chose to have them go against the Lakers). This is a game the Cavaliers should have won easily on paper.
They got the win, but it wasn’t easy. Call it treating the game like a show or just a late-season malaise, the Cavaliers weren’t at their peak and the Lakers took full advantage.
“We was out of sync a little bit, but they shot the ball extremely well,” LeBron said.
Russell got the start with Nick Young battling the flu, and he was knocking down threes and dropped a career-high 40 points.
“Honestly, I feel like I was aggressive from the jump,” Russell said. “Usually when I get myself in trouble turning the ball over it’s because I’m not being aggressive.”
“(Russell is) a great young player, I’ve been playing against him for a few years in the league and I understand what he means to the Lakers,” Irving said.
Lakers’ coach Luke Walton started Russell and Clarkson in the backcourt together, a pairing that had been a disaster most of the season — outscored by 22 points per 100 possessions in 464 minutes coming into the game — but it worked for three quarters this time.
The Clarkson/Russell pairing was also -14 Sunday because in the end they don’t defend well and no answer for Irving.
Cleveland’s big three combined to score 101 points, they carried the day for the Cavs, who in the end get the road win they wanted and a split in Los Angeles. It wasn’t pretty, but on the road late in the season a win is a win.