Heading into Wednesday's matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Lakers had only eight heathy players. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be out for a couple more weeks. Steve Nash was a scheduled scratch for the second game of a back-to-back after his Tuesday return in a loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that saw Mike D'Antoni lose swingman Jodie Meeks to a sprained right ankle and big man Jordan Hill to a neck strain. One of the few healthy Laker wings, Manny Harris, was cut Tuesday after coming to the end of his second 10-day contract, with the team electing not to sign him for the duration of the season.
Luckily for L.A., they were playing the Cavs.
Mike Brown's moribund team promptly allowed the short-handed Lakers to shoot 71.4 percent from the floor and build a 19-point lead by the end of the first quarter. L.A. would extend the lead to 29 points with just under 8 1/2 minutes left before halftime, scoring a season-high 70 points to lead Cleveland by 21 at intermission thanks to white-hot shooting from Jordan Farmar (19 first-half points, 5 for 6 from 3-point land) and Wesley Johnson (15 on 6 for 8 shooting, including 3 for 3 from deep).
Shortly thereafter, though, things started to get dicey.
Nick Young has a twisted left knee. He will not return tonight. He'll be re-evaluated tomorrow in Philly.
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 6, 2014
Losing Nick Young to a knee injury meant there were only seven healthy Lakers, the five on the floor plus two substitutes. That leaves a lot of room on the bench.
the Lakers bench right now is like when you're magically gifted with a whole row to yourself on an airplane. you gotta take advantage.
— Lana Berry (@Lana) February 6, 2014
Chris Kaman feels you, Lana.
The roster shortage got even more severe from there.
Farmar tried to explode to the rim past Varejao, and walked off the court slowly. Working on stretching his lower leg/calf.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 6, 2014
Kaman fouled out. The Lakers will only have 6 eligible players the rest of the way. — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 6, 2014
Farmar checked in briefly, but just went out, the L calf perhaps bothering him. W/Kaman fouled out, LAL literally have 5 players available.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 6, 2014
As Lakers continued falling by the wayside, the Cavaliers continued chipping away at the L.A. lead, getting within 18 after three quarters before beginning the fourth with a 10-2 run to close within 10 points at 100-90. The combination of several L.A. turnovers and some spirited play from reserve Cleveland guard Matthew Dellavedova got the Cavs within eight midway through the frame; the deficit was 10 with 3 1/2 remaining when circumstances conspired to make us pull out our rulebooks.
Sacre fouls out with 3:32 to go. Farmar still doesn't have a uniform on or the ice wrap off. This is bizarre. — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) February 6, 2014
RULE NO. 3-PLAYERS, SUBSTITUTES AND COACHES
a. Each team shall consist of five players. No team may be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.
Since Farmar couldn't check back in with his calf injured and his leg wrapped up, Sacre stayed in the game, with Cavaliers guard C.J. Miles getting two free throws for the personal foul and one for the technical. He made two of three to bring the Cavs within eight, 111-103, and Sacre remained on the floor, a big purple-and-gold bullseye for Cleveland to aim at in the paint, since every foul he committed would bring an extra technical freebie. Cleveland didn't make the most of the oddball advantage, though, never again drawing a foul on Sacre, and never drawing closer than six points.
Another recent Laker injury returnee, point guard Steve Blake — who himself was playing through a sore elbow and a ruptured ear drum — drained a pair of huge 3-pointers in the final minutes to keep Cleveland's charge at bay. With less than a minute left, Nash — who was listed as active, but was a scheduled healthy scratch — made a surprise appearance to take up some space on that bare-bones L.A. bench:
With under a minute to go, Steve Nash, who had the night off for rest, showed up on the bench in uniform: pic.twitter.com/tnVF4DJQK6
— Beyond The Buzzer (@BeyondTheBuzzer) February 6, 2014
Nash's services weren't needed, however, as a pair of free throws from rookie Ryan Kelly pushed the lead back to 11 with 48 seconds remaining, and that's where it would stay, with the drastically depleted Lakers coming away with a 119-108 win thanks to a career-high 26 points from the rookie Kelly, a triple-double (11 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds) from Blake, and 12 points (4 for 6 from 3-point range) and seven assists from Kendall Marshall, the surprise stopgap point guard who found himself bumped down the depth chart by the returns of Nash, Blake and Farmar, but found himself playing a pivotal role on Wednesday in one of the odder NBA games in recent memory.
Mike D'Antoni on the game finishing w/only 4 eligible players + Sacre (6 PF's): "It was interesting to say the least." — Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) February 6, 2014
Interesting, indeed. And for the dismal, futile, 16-33 Cavaliers, losing at home to half of a 17-32 Lakers squad on the second game of a back-to-back ... I mean, it can't get much worse than this, can it?
- - - - - - -