The Cleveland Cavaliers seek their fourth consecutive win and a continuation of a perfect start to their five-game road swing on Friday, facing the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles.
Friday is Cleveland’s second straight game at Staples Center, following a 92-79 defeat of the Clippers there on Wednesday.
Collin Sexton paced the Cavaliers in Wednesday’s win with 26 points, while rookie and USC product Evan Mobley posted a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double in his return to Los Angeles.
Wednesday was also the third consecutive game in which Cleveland held its opponent to fewer than 100 points.
The Cavaliers kicked off their current winning streak with a 101-95 defeat of Atlanta at home, then opened the road swing defeating Denver, 99-87. Cleveland then overwhelmed the Clippers, holding them to a 35.6-percent shooting night from the floor.
The Cavs’ stingy defensive showings thus far are a departure from last season, when Cleveland ranked in the lower-half of the NBA giving up 112.3 points per game.
“We’re early so I don’t want to jump the gun here, but their attitude has been like trying to quench that thirst. That’s the thing to me that’s been the most impressive,” Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in his postgame press conference. “We’ve grown from winning a game and then coming out the next night and not knowing what to do.
“Now,” he added, “we started to translate and build on top of it.”
Stringing together multiple wins was an issue for the Cavaliers last season. They only won three consecutive on three occasions in 2020-21.
A victory on Friday would match Cleveland’s longest winning streak of a year ago (Feb. 23-March 1) and mark the first time the Cavaliers swept the Lakers and Clippers games in Los Angeles since the franchise’s championship-winning 2015-16 campaign.
The Lakers return home for the first of four straight at Staples Center. Los Angeles dropped the second leg of a back-to-back Wednesday in Oklahoma City, 123-115, one night after a 125-121 overtime win in San Antonio.
Despite playing without LeBron James (ankle), Talen Horton-Tucker (thumb) and Kendrick Nunn (leg), the Lakers built a 26-point lead at Oklahoma City. The lack of depth came back to haunt Los Angeles down the stretch.
“We got a veteran ballclub. We know we’re not supposed to lose that game,” said Anthony Davis in his postgame press conference. Davis finished with 30 points and eight rebounds in the loss. “It’s a tough one, for sure, just because this team was struggling and the way we had the lead.”
Russell Westbrook, the NBA’s all-time career leader in triple-doubles, recorded his 185th on Wednesday playing against his former club from 2008 through 2019. Along with his 20 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists, however, Westbrook also committed 10 turnovers and was ejected when Darius Bazley dunked in the game’s waning seconds.
Horton-Tucker and Nunn will both be out Friday, as well as Trevor Ariza. James is questionable to face his former team and the organization he led to four consecutive NBA Finals from 2015 through 2018.
–Field Level Media