Donovan Mitchell returned from injury to score 33 points and lead Cleveland to a 114-100 NBA victory over former Cavaliers star LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
Darius Garland added 24 points and the Cavs pulled away in the second half against a lackluster Lakers side that got only two points from star Anthony Davis after the interval.
Jarrett Allen added 16 points for the Cavaliers, who won their eighth straight and at 8-1 are second to the 9-0 Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference.
The winning streak is Cleveland’s longest since a 13-game streak in 2017 — James’s final season with the club.
Meanwhile, the sputtering Lakers fell to 2-7. They led by as many as 12 in the first half and were up by six at the break, but couldn’t muster a response as they were outscored 56-36 in the second half.
“All of our spirit seemed to have left the building, and that’s one of the parts of re-establishing a winning culture is being able to maintain a competitive spirit,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.
“What we saw in the first half is how we want to play. We were right there going toe-to-toe with them, we actually had the lead going into halftime.
“And then second half, again, shots don’t go down, a few turnovers happen and we kind of dropped our heads a little bit and they just kept revving it up, revving it up, revving it up.
“We have to continue to fight and that can’t change, continue to be competitive and that can’t change,” Ham said.
James scored 27 points and Davis had 19 with 12 rebounds. Russell Westbrook scored 19 points and handed out 10 assists to go with seven turnovers.
But with their offense sputtering late, the Lakers couldn’t find a way to shut down Mitchell and Garland, who had missed six of Cleveland’s previous seven games with eye and knee injuries.
Mitchell, a three-time All-Star guard who joined the Cavaliers from the Utah Jazz in September, has scored 30 or more points in six of eight games with his new team.
He said Cleveland, trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2017-18 campaign, wasn’t focused on their former star James.
“I grew up a Cavs fan so I’m very aware of LeBron, but I don’t think that was what we brought into the game,” Mitchell said.
“You’ve always got to have respect for greatness,” he said, but noted: “At the end of the day, we’re here to win.”
VanVleet paces Raptors
Elsewhere, Fred VanVleet returned from a three-game injury absence to score 30 points and hand out 11 assists to help the Raptors beat the Chicago Bulls 113-104 in Toronto.
With Toronto leading scorer Pascal Siakam sidelined, all five Raptors starters scored in double figures.
O.G. Anunoby scored 22 points and Scottie Barnes put up 19 points with 10 rebounds as the Raptors bounced back from a heartbreaking 111-110 loss to Dallas on Friday.
DeMar DeRozan scored 20 points to lead six Bulls players in double figures. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but Chicago lost a second straight game.
The Bulls coughed up 17 turnovers leading to 23 points for Toronto. But they were down by just one point after Patrick Williams’s dunk with 4:23 remaining.
The Raptors responded with a three-point play by VanVleet and Anunoby came up with a steal and a driving dunk as Toronto pulled away again.
In Memphis, Desmond Bane and Ja Morant combined for 51 points as the Grizzlies beat the short-handed Washington Wizards 103-97.
Despite the absence of Washington’s leading scorer Bradley Beal, the Wizards seized a quick 9-0 lead before the Grizzlies found their range.
Bane scored 28 points and Morant added 23 with nine rebounds and six assists for Memphis, who led 57-43 at halftime, pushed the advantage to as many as 23 in the third quarter and turned back the Wizards’ comeback bid in the fourth.