CLEVELAND - The Lakers hit the All-Star break broken.
Looking nothing like two-time defending NBA champions, they dropped their third straight game, a stunning 104-99 loss Wednesday night to the Cleveland Cavaliers – the league’s worst team –which avenged a 55-point embarrassment against Los Angeles last month.
Ramon Sessions came off the bench and scored a season-high 32 points for the Cavs, who were beaten 112-57 by the Lakers on Jan. 11. That loss was No. 11 in a league-record losing streak that eventually reached 26 before Cleveland ended it last week with an overtime win against the Clippers.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 30 points and 20 rebounds.
Playing the finale of a seven-game road trip, the Lakers spent much of the night looking as if they were already on vacation. They threw errant passes, forced outside shots and couldn’t catch the Cavs down the stretch despite a frantic comeback.
“It’s back to the drawing board,” said Lamar Odom, who was asked what’s at the top of the team’s to-do list. “Defense. Cohesiveness. Our chemistry on offense. I’m not that worried. I think it’s things we can fix.”
Kobe Bryant finished with 17 points on 8-of-25 shooting for the Lakers, who committed 19 turnovers and enraged Phil Jackson, who screamed at them during timeouts after inexcusable defensive lapses.
But as poorly as they played, the Lakers cut a 10-point lead to two in the final minute. But two free throws each by Anthony Parker and Sessions in the last 17.9 seconds sealed it.
NBA abroad: The NBA and U.S. State Department will make their first joint trip to India beginning Tuesday as part of their 2011 sports envoy program. Hall of Famer George Gervin and two-time WNBA champion Katie Smith will visit Mumbai and New Delhi through March 2. They will conduct clinics, meet with students and attend the finals of the Mahindra NBA Challenge, a league run by the NBA and India’s basketball federation.
Fastbreaks: Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay will miss at least four weeks after an MRI showed a partially dislocated left shoulder. The Bobcats have given interim coach Paul Silas a one-year extension through the 2011-12 season. Cavaliers coach Byron Scott will have his No. 11 Arizona State jersey retired tonight during the game against Washington.