Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/14/13
LOS ANGELES -- Cathartic is not typically a word used to describe a Los Angeles Lakers win. Landslide, blowout, expected -- those are bandied about with regularity, or at least they were. But for a team that was riding a season-worst, six-game losing streak and was off to its worst start in almost 20 years, a squad that had battled injury issues and inconsistency throughout the season, cathartic is just about right. There were sighs of relief all over Lakerland after the team's 113-93 win over the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night at Staples Center. It was, according to Lakers center Dwight Howard, a faith-restoring victory. "We just have to keep believing," said Howard, who rushed back from a torn labrum that cost him three games, returning to score 22 points and grab 14 rebounds against Cleveland. "We have to put some wins together, but the biggest thing is we've got to believe." The Lakers had little reason to doubt Sunday. They took an 11-point lead less than five minutes into the game, led by 19 by the end of the first quarter and jumped ahead by as much as 30. With Howard back in the fold earlier than expected, the Lakers (16-21) did what they haven't done in 2013: win. The team's previous victory came Dec. 28 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Los Angeles shot a season-high 58 percent from the field while holding the Cavaliers (9-30) to just 41.1 percent shooting, including 38 percent in the first half. Howard had 16 points and eight rebounds before the break as the Lakers grabbed a 12-point lead. "We just got punched in the mouth in the first quarter," said Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving, who finished with 15 points and seven assists. "We didn't come together as a team when we really need to when they made their run. Those types of things have to change, and for a young team like ourselves, we have to huddle together. Good teams are going to make runs, but we have to fight back." With complete command of the perimeter, both offensively and defensively, Los Angeles did not let up. The Lakers held Cleveland to 4-of-21 shooting from 3-point range while hitting 13 of 25 (52 percent) from behind the arc. "We did a good job trying to close out, and we took good shots," Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's no reason we don't shoot 50 percent if (we) take good shots. There's no reason we don't shoot a good percentage every night." Cleveland coach Byron Scott said, "The one thing we wanted to try to do was take away a lot of the paint scoring. In the first quarter, they got pretty much anything they wanted in the paint. Second quarter, we did a much better job, but throughout the game, they hit some big 3s. In our defense, we don't leave corners -- we left corners tonight, and they made us pay." Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 23 points and added six assists. Antawn Jamison had 16 points off the bench for the Lakers, who thrived despite 22 turnovers, including seven by Howard. Earl Clark, who has taken a more prominent role in the absence of Pau Gasol (concussion), had 13 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots for Los Angeles. Dion Waiters scored 15 for the Cavaliers, and Alonzo Gee added 14 points. NOTES: Gasol missed his fourth straight game despite participating in shooting exercises. He has had numerous neurological tests since suffering the concussion after being elbowed by Denver's JaVale McGee on Jan. 6. With Gasol, Howard and Jordan Hill (hip tear, out for season) sidelined in recent games, the Lakers have turned to Clark, who is averaging a double-double in his first four starts. ... The Cavaliers won the teams' first matchup of the season, 100-94 on Dec. 11, despite a game-high 42 points from Bryant. Irving had 28 points and 11 assists in that game, and C.J. Miles added 28 points for the Cavaliers. ... The Lakers improved to 5-6 in their past 11 matchups with Cleveland. ... Los Angeles' 15-21 record heading into the game was the team's worst 36-game start since 1993-94, when the Lakers began 11-25.
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