There had to be a low point. The Los Angeles Lakers can only hope they’ve reached it.
This chaotic season has gotten worse.
Kyrie Irving scored 28 points in his return after missing 11 games with a broken finger, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 100-94 win over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, who look nothing like a team projected to win an NBA title — or anything else.
“This is one of the most challenging stretches of my 17 years, and the most baffling, too,” a puzzled Bryant said after the Lakers lost for the eighth time in 11 games. “We have the talent and personnel to do it, but we’re not, and it’s baffling. It’s extremely frustrating.
“It doesn’t make any sense. We’re still finding ways to lose games.”
Irving added 11 assists in 39 minutes and showed off his dizzying array of moves as the Cavs, who came in with just four wins, ended a five-game losing streak.
Bryant scored 42 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers, who were still missing Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, from opening a four-game road trip with a with a loss that could sting for a while.
“We have to stop the bleeding — somehow,” said Howard, who forced a trade this summer from Orlando to join the Lakers and maybe win some championships. “We can’t let this kill our spirits too much. This is tough on all of us right now.
“We want to win. We’re sick of losing. We all understand that situations like this don’t last forever.”
C.J. Miles scored 28 in his first start this season, Anderson Varejao had 20 and Alonzo Gee 17 for the Cavs.
Los Angeles fell behind by 16 points in the third quarter, and despite Bryant’s valiant attempt to rescue them — he scored 16 in the fourth quarter — the Lakers dropped to 1-10 in games the superstar scores 30 or more points.
“We played very uninspired basketball, offensively and defensively,” said coach Mike D’Antoni, brought in to repair an underachieving squad after Mike Brown was fired five games into the season. “We play at a very slow pace and we struggle. Maybe it shifts over to defense. Maybe we’re slow. Maybe we can’t do it. It’s my job to fix it — and that’s what I’ll do.”
As the final seconds ticked off, Bryant stood at halfcourt, his right hand resting on his hip, a look of disgust on his face. When the horn sounded, he handed the ball to an official and shared a brief hug with Irving and a long one with Cavs coach Byron Scott, who whispered something in his ear.
The Lakers have nowhere to go but up.
Bryant refused to single out any teammates, and he chose his words carefully when pressed on his team’s many problems.
“I’m very upset,” Bryant said. “When things get hard, you should get more determined, not shake your heads. It just seems when it rains it pours. It’s like this cloud is following us around at all times. I’m one of the fastest guys on the team — and I’m like 50. What does that tell you?”