It’s becoming one of the Lakers’ formulas for losses this season – fall behind, catch up, take the lead, fail to close, lose the game. Lather, rinse, repeat.

With just over four minutes played in the first quarter, the scoreboard read 17-6, Cleveland and the expectation for another loss was on the brink.

Five Bryant assists later, however, the score was 21-17, Cavs.

Thursday’s battle of the big first names (Kobe vs. Lebron) wasn’t how it used to be, but darned if it still didn’t incite excitement. While James did his scoring thing, Bryant did his assisting thing, thanks in part to his teammates who were actually able to score off his passes.

Despite the first half being competitive, as the Lakers went into the break with a 61-57 lead, the second half was not. Coach Byron Scott has been adamant about keeping Bryant’s minutes at bay, and the team’s efficiency plummeted without him on the floor.

While the Cavaliers, sitting at 6th place in the Eastern Conference, were trying to end their losing streak at six, the Lakers are still trying to figure out how to sustain their efforts through to the end of a game. The end for them tonight was their 28th loss of the season, falling 109-102 to the Cavaliers.

What Went Right

Kobe Bryant – Consistently inconsistent – that’s been Bryant’s season thus far. There have been days when missing a few games has resulted in more energy for the next, and then there are days that rest has resulted in rust. After a shooting slump that has plagued him for the last three games he’s played, Bryant looked energized and ready tonight. He shot 7-of-14 from the field for his 19 points, even hitting 3-of-6 from behind the arc. The highlight of his evening, however, was recording a new career-high 17 assists, with 10 in the first half. The 19th Season Version of Kobe Bryant has been an odd one to watch. Despite the tough season, he’s surprisingly calm, that lower jaw hibernating longer than we’re used to. He wasn’t trying to embarrass Kyrie Irving or James tonight. He was just having fun…passing. (Insert sarcastic remarks from haters here).

Jordan Hill – 10-of-14 from the field for his 20 points, plus six rebounds, three steals and a block. Hill has been the most consistent player on the team this season. His confidence at midrange is a beacon for the Lakers when they’ve hit a scoring drought, and tonight was no different.

Good Start – Even though they fell behind by 11 so early in the game, the Lakers bared down and continued to play. They shot 65% in the first quarter, scoring 30 against Cleveland’s own 30 and put in another 31 points to end the first half.

What Went Wrong

Second Half – As well as they played in the first half, they played equally worse in the second. The third quarter alone dragged them down, shooting just 6-of-20 from the field (30%) and outputting a mere 14 points. The Cavs shot just 44% and scored only 22 points, something the Lakers could have used to their advantage, but weren’t unable to. A four-point deficit going into the final quarter didn’t seem like such a huge feat to overcome, but Bryant played over nine minutes in the third, which put him at 26 minutes going into the last 12. Byron Scott made it clear that he wouldn’t play Bryant past 32 minutes, so the Mamba checked in with just under six minutes left in the game. By that time, Cleveland’s lead had ballooned back to 11, James was on a tear, and time was running out. Despite big threes by Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, and Bryant, they couldn’t stop the Cavs.

Shooting Slumps – Usually when Bryant is in distribution mode, multiple Lakers score in bunches. They shot 51% for the game actually, but there were a select few who just couldn’t put the ball in the hole: Young, 4-of-13; Ronnie Price, 1-of-5; Ryan Kelly, 1-of-6.

In the end, despite the valiant effort to catch up to the Cavs, time just ran out. Now we stand at almost the exact halfway point in the season. Hopefully the Lakers can re-work their formula and gather up a few victories.

Box Score

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