Cavaliers get the best of James-less Lakers to end 12-game losing streak

Lakers' Ivica Zubac forces Cleveland Cavaliers Colin Sexton into a missed shot buts gets an elbow to the face in the second quarter at the Staples Center on Sunday.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The high level of frustration the Lakers had been experiencing didn’t stop them from losing to a Cleveland Cavaliers team that entered Sunday night’s game at Staples Center with the worst record in the NBA at 8-35.

The game they stressed was “very important” didn’t stop them from losing to a team that had lost 12 consecutive games.

They were warned by Lakers coach Luke Walton on Saturday and by associate head coach Brian Shaw on Sunday about the dangers of overlooking a team that had been struggling mightily all season.


But all the Lakers did was increase their levels of frustration after an embarrassing 101-95 defeat.

Their effort drew boos at times from the crowd of 18,997.

When it was over, Walton talked about perhaps changing his starting lineup in order to get a better jump start in games.

The Lakers are 3-7 since LeBron James went down with a strained left groin. Rajon Rondo joined him on the injured list after having surgery on his right ring finger.

Asked about the level of frustration with his group, Walton couldn’t provide a number.

“Hopefully it’s pretty high,” Walton said.

“It’s a game we knew was very important to us. It should be. ... I can’t give you a number, but it should be pretty high.

“Hopefully it’s an anger that stays with us for at least the next few days.”

Even so, James won’t be back when the Lakers play Tuesday night against the Chicago Bulls, who are tied for the second-worst record in the NBA with the New York Knicks (10-33) and have lost seven consecutive games.

James is due to be reevaluated Wednesday.

The Lakers’ schedule gets tougher after the Bulls game, with matchups against Oklahoma City and Houston.

“As a team, we need to be more engaged in the sense of have an effort,” said Kyle Kuzma, who had 29 points on 11-for-23 shooting from the field, including two of seven from three-point range. “And that starts with me. I played like crap today.

“Not bringing that energy. That’s what we need to do as a team in order to compete and play in all these games. No matter a team comes in here with one of the worst records, no disrespect to the Cavs, but they still are an NBA team. But for us we can’t take nothing lightly, especially in this league, ’cause we’re all professionals. You can lose on any given night. Not bringing the effort. ... That’s what happened tonight.”

The Lakers fell behind by 15 points in the first quarter but managed to pull within one point in the third. But the Cavaliers still managed to have a 10-point lead entering the fourth quarter.

“It’s hard for us to come in here and say the losses don’t matter, because they do,” said Brandon Ingram, who had 22 points. “We come in here every single day and just try to stick to the game plan, try to stay confident in what we do, try to stay connected and I think we just have to go back and look at film.

“We have to all just have a talk and just think about what we do just every time we go out on the basketball floor that’s going to help our games out.”

The Lakers had lost to a Knicks team that was on an eight-game losing streak when it came here more than a week ago.

It appears as if the Lakers didn’t learn a lesson from that at all.

After they gave up 32 points in the first quarter, Walton was thinking about making some changes.

“We might have to do something to the starting lineup right now,” he said.

“Every game feels like we’re giving up 30 points-plus in the first quarter, so we’ll take a closer look at that. …We’ll take a look and possibly make a change before Tuesday.”

Twitter: @BA_Turner