No Love lost in LeBron-led Lakers' thumping

LeBron James and former teammate Kevin Love sharing an embrace. Dwight Howard swinging from the rim after a dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers centre had a season-high 21 points to go with 15 boards in a blowout 128-99 win.
Dwight Howard swinging from the rim after a dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers centre had a season-high 21 points to go with 15 boards in a blowout 128-99 win.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
LeBron James and former teammate Kevin Love sharing an embrace. Dwight Howard swinging from the rim after a dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers centre had a season-high 21 points to go with 15 boards in a blowout 128-99 win.
LeBron James and former teammate Kevin Love sharing an embrace. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Kevin Love and LeBron James had not played against each other since before they linked up in 2014 for a memorable four-year partnership at the Cleveland Cavaliers and winning one National Basketball Association (NBA) title.

After their first meeting since James' July 2018 move ended in a blowout 128-99 win for the Lakers, they got together on court with Tristan Thompson to renew a friendship bigger than basketball.

"That's a brotherhood," Love, who paced his team with 21 points, said.

"That's a bond that can never be broken. You saw Tristan and myself out there with him.

"That's something we'll always remember and kind of take to our graves. He's my brother for life, it is weird playing against him."

Their connection is rock-solid, even after a game that demonstrated why James is contending for another ring this year.

He scored 23 of his game-high 31 points in a big second half, while Dwight Howard added a season-high 21 points and had 15 rebounds as Los Angeles romped to their ninth consecutive victory on Monday night.

The Lakers posted their highest-scoring half in 33 years while scoring 81 in the second half. James, who added eight assists to pass Detroit Pistons great Isaiah Thomas (9,061), moved up to eighth on the league's all-time list.

The hosts have been so dominant of late that they barely missed Anthony Davis, who is averaging 27.1 points but missed his third straight game with a bruised backside.

Attributing their hot streak to the team "playing with a lot of balance", James said: "Defensively, we got stops, and we had great pace.

"Even when they scored, we got the ball out and continued to play with pace."

He has not left Cleveland long enough to forget his connection with Love or his spirited practice competitions with Thompson.

They recognise their former teammate's steady brilliance but also see improvements to his ever-evolving game.

Thompson guarded James for long stretches, just like he would in scrimmages back in Cleveland, but noted that the 35-year-old forward has become even more selfless since his move.

"He made some threes to get himself going, but he did a good job of getting his teammates involved," the centre, who contributed 17 points, said.

"I accept the challenge. It's fun playing against the best player of our generation, and probably one of the best of all time. I love it."

Cleveland took a 14-point lead in the first half while most of the Lakers played listlessly, but Los Angeles ran away from the middle of the second quarter once James moved through the gears.

On their inability to limit his output, Cavaliers coach John Beilein admitted that "when the pendulum began to swing, we couldn't stop it".

ASSOCIATED PRESS


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline 'No Love lost in LeBron-led Lakers' thumping'. Print Edition | Subscribe