LeBron James has triple-double, monster dunk in Lakers’ win over Cavaliers

Lakers forward LeBron James soars past Cavaliers forwards Lamar Stevens (8) and Lauri Markkanen (24) for a layup.
Lakers forward LeBron James soars past Cavaliers forwards Lamar Stevens (8) and Lauri Markkanen (24) for a layup during the first half Monday night in Cleveland.
(Ron Schwane / Associated Press)

LeBron James looked up and regretted what he was about to do.

As James cut down the lane in the first half Monday night, he didn’t see his old friend and ex-teammate Kevin Love slide into the paint and plant his feet. He already had planted and pushed off into the air.

It was too late to care — so James nearly jumped over him in throwing down a monster dunk.


“To be completely honest, I hated that it had to be him. He’s my guy. That’s my brother. And I hope I’m still invited to the wedding,” James said. “That’s not even in my all-time dunks so I’ll take it out. I didn’t mean it. K-Love, I love you and I take it back. I wish I could take those two points back.”

Imagine that, the Lakers offering to take two points off the board a week after they would’ve sacrificed almost anything just to see the ball go in the basket.

But after they beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 131-120, the Lakers spoke pretty confidently about the offensive rhythm they’re in after almost 12 straight quarters of good basketball, the costly fourth in Washington the lone exception.

Maybe there’s evidence of actual growth and consistency. Or maybe James just really hates losing in Cleveland and is willing to leap over anyone in his way.

James is now 17-1 against the Cavaliers, the opponent against whom he averages the most points. Monday, it was more of the same.

Former USC star and NBA rookie Evan Mobley has made a big impact during the Cleveland Cavaliers rebuild, an ultimate team player without the attitude.

James scored 38 to go with 12 assists and 11 rebounds and Russell Westbrook had 20 points with 11 assists, the Lakers ending a four-game trip with a pair of wins and actual rhythm and momentum.

In their last three games, the Lakers are averaging 126 points.

With index fingers twirling at the sides of his head, indicating that he was going crazy, James hit jumper after jumper — calming down the Cleveland bench and posing for fans who still wear his old Cavaliers jerseys.

“They’ve seen me or heard about me for quite awhile now — for almost 30 years since I picked up a basketball recreationally,” James said. “So that’s the difference between here and every other arena in the world.”

But, the Lakers hope, there are other differences too, the team learning how to play smaller more effectively while maximizing space for their best players.

The evidence came, but not right away.

Here the Lakers were, down double digits early, their will routinely broken by just the slightest pressure. It’s a scene that’s led to losses in cities all over the NBA map — the Lakers folding after a blown call, a missed rotation, a bricked jumper or, in this case, a phantom box out that led to two easy, second-chance points for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers went on to score 31 of the next 42 points, the latest chapter in the Lakers’ ineptitude in the face of adversity seemingly being written. But they stayed in it.

“We’ve had plenty of stretches throughout the year where those runs led to 30-point deficits and ugly nights,” coach Frank Vogel said.

The Lakers can head home, at minimum, with some comfort in their current style of play, even if it’s not what a Vogel team normally looks like.

Embracing lineups that favor offense, the Lakers finally have shown flashes of continuity — a trait that had eluded them since the very first days of the season following their busy summer.

So while Vogel said it hasn’t been “fun,” they had to pivot.

The Lakers used their 33rd different starting lineup Monday, playing Wenyen Gabriel, Dwight Howard and Austin Reaves with James and Westbrook. The group opened the game by scoring six straight before the Cavaliers stormed ahead by as many as 14.

But reserve guard D.J. Augustin got hot, making all six of his threes, and the Lakers kept fighting — as positive a sign as any and one they’ve shown consistently over the last week.

And the Lakers stayed in the fight long enough for James to take over, both as a scorer and a playmaker, the team looking as comfortable as it has all season.

James scored his points without even making a three. Westbrook hit a pair from deep and dusted off his rock-the-baby celebration after a hoop on All-Star guard Darius Garland. Westbrook and James, probably most importantly, combined for 23 of the Lakers’ 34 assists.

As they regain confidence on the floor, sidelined star Anthony Davis keeps progressing in his rehab of a foot sprain. Monday, his on-court shooting regiment before the game included more movement, a good sign.

And the Lakers still think they have a chance for revenge on the people who have written them off.

“I live for adversity. Just negativity from people, just outside in, and just constantly talking, because nothing better than shutting people up,” Westbrook said. “It’s nothing better than sitting back and watching people just be quiet and not talk when you kinda try to figure it out. And I think that’s something that our group realizes, that we know that outside people are doubting what we’re able to do, and internally we’re super confident in our abilities to be able to score and defend at a high level.

“When we do it well, there’s not much teams can do.”