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Lakers talk through their problems: Five takeaways from win over Cavaliers

Lakers teammates LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook
Lakers teammates, from left, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook watch from the bench during the final minutes of a 113-101 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on Friday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

They had two “spirited timeouts” during the third quarter when the Lakers were struggling on defense.

They had tough conversations at halftime about a lack of defensive effort.

And it wasn’t just Lakers coach Frank Vogel and his staff who addressed the poor defensive play.

It was veterans Rajon Rondo, LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis, all of whom were striving to play better defensively by “working together”

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After missing two games with a sore right ankle, LeBron James returns and helps the Lakers hold off a spirited effort from a young Cavaliers team.

“I come in to talk to the guys at halftime and they’re already watching film, talking to each other,” Vogel said. “Rondo was in there, LeBron, Russ, AD. They’re all talking and figuring things. We’re looking at our clips that we pull as well. So, they were just motivated. It’s not happening on the defensive side the way we want, but we’re working towards it.”

The Lakers’ defensive manifested itself in the fourth quarter, holding the Cavaliers to just 16 points on 22.2% shooting.

Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 113-101 win over the Cavaliers on Friday night at Staples Center.

1. Talking about the lackluster defensive effort, Vogel said his players “were just tired of how it looked, and the coaching staff and the head coach was tired of how it looked, and we let them know about it.”

More important, the Lakers did something about it — they clamped down.

When the Lakers got down by seven points in the third quarter, Vogel called a timeout.

About a minute later, after their defense still was subpar, Vogel called another timeout with the Lakers down 75-66.

“Defensively, frustrated in the first half,” Vogel said. “There’s no other way to put it. We spent a lot of time trying to get that end of the floor better and improved and build that cohesion. We’re spirited in some of the timeouts and spirited at halftime and had a much better second half, particularly in the fourth quarter.”

At last, the Lakers got their act together on defense, holding the Cavaliers to 26 points the rest of the way.

“It starts with our communication, and we were all talking in the fourth quarter, and the third,” Davis said. “And we were able to get the lead, and ultimately get the win. But it starts with our communication on the defensive end.”

2. The Lakers were careless with the basketball, turning it over too much. They had two 24-second clock violations in the fourth quarter and they turned the ball over 22 times.

“We’re still learning each other and we’re still trying to figure out what it takes to execute great ball security,” Vogel said. “It’s not all on the ballhandler. We’re not spacing appropriately. We’re swinging poorly. We had to call a couple timeouts to clean up and fix.”

3. Austin Reaves keeps maximizing his role.

He doesn’t mind being aggressive on defense and he’s willing to shoot the basketball when open. He was credited with a block, and he also forced a jump ball, all a part of his hustle and energy.

“I know my job is to go in and play as hard as possible and do anything I can do to help the team be successful,” Reaves said. “That’s what I try to do.”

LeBron James returned to the Lakers after missing two games because of a sore ankle, but can he energize a team that has struggled to gain momentum?

He finished with seven points, going two for four from the field.

“He’s been outstanding for us on both sides of the ball,” Vogel said. “Teams think that they can target him, but he really moves his feet well, puts his body in front of the ball and plays with a toughness and scraps in loose-ball situations. Just plays a scrappy brand and then, obviously, the poise that he plays with offensively is very surprising for a rookie.”

4. It was another big night for Carmelo Anthony, with his shot being a big reason the Lakers won.

Anthony had 24 points on nine-for-12 shooting and was six for eight on three-pointers.

He made all three of his three-pointers in the fourth quarter.

5. Avery Bradley was another veteran who gave the Lakers a lift.

He did it with his defense by applying pressure on Cavaliers guards Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Bradley also chipped in with seven points.


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