CLEVELAND — It was one of the weirdest games in NBA history. It was also one of the most embarrassing losses in Cavaliers history.
The horrible Los Angeles Lakers played the final 3:32 with four healthy players and one who had already fouled out, but still hung on to beat the even-worse Cavs 119-108 Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Lakers (17-32), who had lost seven straight, 13 of 15 and 19 of 22 and arrived in the wee hours of the morning after playing in Minnesota the previous night, began the evening with just eight healthy players.
With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash among the wounded, they then lost Nick Young to a twisted knee in the second quarter and Jordan Farmar to cramps in his calf in the second half, leaving them with six players.
Chris Kaman fouled out with 8:29 left in the game and fellow center Robert Sacre picked up his sixth with 3:32 remaining.
Under NBA rules, Sacre was allowed to stay in the game, but the Lakers were given a technical for his sixth foul and would have gotten another “T” for each subsequent foul he committed, but he did not pick up another.
“It was interesting, to say the least,” Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said.
It got so bad that Nash went in and put on a uniform late in the game just in case he was forced to play, though he would not have been allowed to once the Lakers chose to keep Sacre in with six fouls.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Sacre said of picking up his sixth foul. “I didn’t know if we had enough guys. It was crazy. In my mind, I’m just like, ‘Dang, here we go again.’ I’m just glad our team fought through the adversity.”
In the end, all the craziness added up to a sixth straight loss for the Cavs (16-33), who have also dropped eight of their last nine.
“The game got away from us in the first quarter,” said Cleveland coach Mike Brown, whose team trailed 36-17 after one. “We came out and couldn’t make a shot. Nor could we get a stop.”
Down as many as 29 in the first half and still trailing by 28 with 3:13 left in the third period, Cleveland got within six with 1:17 left, but did not score again.
With Kyrie Irving (11 points, 5-for-14 field goals) sitting for the last 19:32, the Cavs were already within 10 after a C.J. Miles 3-pointer with 9:39 left in the game, but the Lakers found a way to hold on.
“It was more about the players on the floor,” Brown said of benching all his starters but Anderson Varejao for the entire fourth quarter. “They were playing hard. If anybody takes a message out of it, then so be it.”
Asked if Brown might have been sending a message to the rest of his starters, Irving said, “If I were Coach … I would have played those guys as long, as well. They deserved to be in.”
Rookie power forward Ryan Kelly led Los Angeles with a career-high 26 points, while Farmar had 19 of his 21 in the first half.
Wesley Johnson had 15 of his 20 points in the first quarter, and Steve Blake had a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists for the Lakers, who shot .625 from the field while scoring 70 first-half points, including .714 in a 36-point first period.
“All defense is is effort,” said Cavs point guard Jarrett Jack, who played only 17 minutes. “Nobody can control that but (each player). Coach can scream and yell. Anybody can scream and yell. It comes down to a man.”
Miles led the Cavs, who were being outscored 45-3 from behind the arc late in the third quarter, with 27 points. Twenty-three came in the second half.
Varejao had 15 points and 13 rebounds, Anthony Bennett had 14 points and eight boards and Tristan Thompson had 13 points and eight rebounds.
The Lakers finished the game 18-for-37 on 3-pointers (.486), while the Cavs were a putrid 5-for-33 (.152). Subtract Miles (4-for-11) and Cleveland was 1-for-22 (.045).
Six of the Cavs’ missed 3-pointers came after Sacre had picked up his sixth foul, though several came in the closing moments with Cleveland helplessly behind.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Kaman said of using a player with six fouls. “I asked (assistant coach Kurt Rambis and trainer Gary Vitti). They’ve been around 30 years and neither one of them have seen anything like that. It was interesting. I don’t think you’ll ever see anything like that again.”
In a battle between two of the worst teams in the NBA at the moment, the Lakers came out like they had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Magic Johnson in uniform, while the Cavs looked like they had Walt Wesley, Rick Roberson and Bobby Washington on the floor.
Playing as if they were going through a practice shooting drill, the Lakers made their first six 3-point attempts to take a quick 24-13 lead. They extended that to 34-15 late in the period, at which time they were shooting a sizzling .824 from the floor (14-for-17).
Cleveland connected at a .paltry 292 clip (7-for-24) in the opening period, but things only got worse for the defenseless Cavs early in the second quarter.
With 8½ minutes to go in the half, Los Angeles was up 52-23 and shooting .750 from the field (21-for-28). That included .750 from behind the arc (9-for-12) as well.
The Cavs immediately went on a 7-0 run to get within 22 and later got as close as 18 in the first half, but found themselves down 70-49 at intermission.
It tied the most points given up in a half by the Cavs this season. Cleveland also surrendered 70 in the first half to Minnesota on Nov. 13, which led to the infamous team meeting after the game that got very heated.
Lakers starting point guard Farmar, who isn’t exactly known as a great shooter, was 7-for-9 from the field, including 5-for-6 from deep, in the first half. Starting forwards Johnson (15) and Kelly (13) — Sacre started at center and Blake was at shooting guard — combined for 28 more first-half points on 10-for-16 shooting.
“They just played harder than us,” Jack said. “In every phase, we put ourselves in a tremendously deep hole in the first half.”
Lakers 119, Cavaliers 108
L.A. LAKERS (119): Johnson 8-15 0-0 20, Kelly 8-16 7-9 26, Sacre 5-8 0-2 10, Farmar 8-15 0-0 21, Blake 2-7 5-6 11, Young 1-5 4-4 6, Kaman 6-7 1-1 13, Marshall 4-6 0-0 12. Totals 42-79 17-22 119.
CLEVELAND (108): Deng 1-10 1-2 3, Thompson 4-8 5-8 13, Varejao 7-16 1-1 15, Irving 5-14 1-1 11, Jack 2-5 3-4 7, Waiters 3-11 0-1 6, Bennett 4-10 6-6 14, Dellavedova 3-8 1-2 8, Zeller 0-0 0-0 0, Clark 2-4 0-2 4, Miles 7-15 9-10 27. Totals 38-101 27-37 108.
L.A. Lakers 36 34 28 21 — 119
Cleveland 17 32 31 28 — 108
3-Point Goals—L.A. Lakers 18-37 (Farmar 5-8, Marshall 4-6, Johnson 4-7, Kelly 3-7, Blake 2-7, Young 0-2), Cleveland 5-33 (Miles 4-11, Dellavedova 1-5, Bennett 0-1, Deng 0-2, Jack 0-2, Clark 0-2, Waiters 0-5, Irving 0-5). Fouled Out—Sacre, Kaman. Rebounds—L.A. Lakers 48 (Blake 10), Cleveland 67 (Varejao 13). Assists—L.A. Lakers 35 (Blake 15), Cleveland 24 (Varejao, Dellavedova 5). Total Fouls—L.A. Lakers 25, Cleveland 22. Technicals—L.A. Lakers Coach D’Antoni. A—15,205 (20,562).