With the Los Angeles Lakers mired in their longest losing streak in almost six years, coach Mike D’Antoni wants his team to solely focus on the moment.
Looking to avoid a seventh consecutive defeat, the banged-up Lakers hope a matchup with one of the league’s worst teams can help turn things around as they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night.
Even without stars Dwight Howard (shoulder) and Pau Gasol (concussion), not to mention key reserve Jordan Hill (hip) possibly being done for the season, D’Antoni believes Los Angeles can quickly end its worst stretch since a seven-game slide March 2-15, 2007.
“I told the team, the biggest thing is our season starts Sunday,” he said. “We’ve got to make a run. We’ve got one shot at it, and everybody needs to get ready mentally and physically.
“… We won’t be mathematically out of it Tuesday if we don’t do it Sunday, but it has got to turn around somewhere. And we have to make our stand and do it. I am an optimist and I think it can happen.”
Though Howard and Gasol are both likely to miss a fourth straight game, the Lakers (15-21) might have a good chance to get back on track at home against Cleveland (9-29), owner of the NBA’s second-worst record. Los Angeles is looking to avoid dropping four straight home games for the first time since a five-game skid Jan. 26-Feb. 21, 2007.
“They’re not done,” Russell Westbrook said after helping Oklahoma City to a 116-101 win at Los Angeles on Friday. “They have a lot more games left, and I’m pretty sure they’re going to find a way to get it together.”
If that’s to happen, Los Angeles must improve defensively after yielding an average of 111.8 points on 49.1 percent shooting during the six-game slide. Kevin Durant scored 42 as the Thunder built a 27-point lead and shot 50.6 percent Friday.
“We’re just very frustrated and upset about what we’re going through right now, and how we’re playing,” star Kobe Bryant said. “We’re going to have to make some big adjustments if we’re going to be successful.”
Though Bryant is averaging a league-leading 30.0 points and shooting a career-high 47.2 percent, he’s averaged 25.0 points and shot 37.7 percent in three games since Howard and Gasol got hurt. Bryant is 13 of 50 (26.0 percent) from 3-point range over the last seven.
He’s scored 42 in each of the last two games against the Cavaliers, most recently a 100-94 loss at Cleveland on Dec. 11.
These teams have split four meetings since LeBron James bolted Cleveland after the 2009-10 season. Both Lakers’ victories were at Staples Center as they held the Cavs to a combined 34.0 percent from the field.
Though three of Cleveland’s five total wins away from home have come over its last six road contests, it has lost the last two.
The Cavs opened a five-game western trip with a 98-91 loss at Denver on Friday. Kyrie Irving shook off an illness to post 28 points, seven assists and five steals, but Cleveland blew an 11-point halftime lead while being outscored 53-35 in the second half.
“We’re still young and dumb and don’t understand what we have to do in the third quarter,” coach Byron Scott said. “It happens over and over. I’m tired of us giving games away.”
Irving is averaging 27.8 points over his last five games and has totaled 49 in two matchups with Los Angeles.