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LeBron, Lakers run away from Cavs after halftime for 9th straight win

  • Lakers center Dwight Howard hangs on the basket as he dunks during the first half of Monday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, right, shoots as Lakers center JaVale McGee, led, defends as forward LeBron James watches during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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  • Lakers forward LeBron James, left, shoots as Cavaliers forward Kevin Love defends during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Cavaliers guard Kevin Porter Jr., right, shoots as Lakers guard Alex Caruso defends during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Lakers center Dwight Howard dunks as Cavaliers guard Dante Exum watches from behind during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to his dunk during the first half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Danny Green #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles past Darius Garland #10 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: John Henson #31 and Alfonzo McKinnie #28 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defend against the dribble of LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers dribbles into the defense of Alfonzo McKinnie #28 and Cedi Osman #16 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, right, dunks over Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers guard Avery Bradley, left, shoots as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Brandon Knight defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, right, loses control of the ball as he shoots as Cleveland Cavaliers forward John Henson, left, and forward Alfonzo McKinnie defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Alex Caruso #4 of the Los Angeles Lakers passes the ball past the defense of Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defends against LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defends against LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson, right, stares down Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James after dunking over him during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defends against LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: JaVale McGee #7 of the Los Angeles Lakers sets a pick for LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers as Tristan Thompson #13 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defends during the first half of a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, shoots as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Alfonzo McKinnie defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the first half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • The Lakers’ LeBron James dribbles past the Cavaliers’ Tristan Thompson during the first half of Monday’s game at Staples Center. James had 31 points and eight assists in the Lakers’ 128-99 win. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to shooting a three point shot during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, second from left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers guard Quinn Cook, left, guard Alex Caruso, second from right, and forward LeBron James defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: LeBron James #23 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during the first half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, shoots as Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, right, drives toward the basket as Cleveland Cavaliers forward Alfonzo McKinnie defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard gestures after forward LeBron James scored during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, left, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to shooting a three point shot during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, left, sticks his tongue out after scoring and drawing a foul as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers drives past Dante Exum #1 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first half at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers calls a play during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kyle Kuzma #0 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers look on during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, right, celebrates after scoring as Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Dwight Howard #39 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Anthony Davis #3, Rajon Rondo #9 and LeBron James #23 react to a three point shot by Quinn Cook #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half of a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James celebrates from the bench after guard Alex Caruso hit a three-point shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 128-99. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hugs LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers after a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JANUARY 13: Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers hugs LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers after a game at Staples Center on January 13, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

  • Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James tosses powder in the air as teammates watch prior to an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, Jan. 13, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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LOS ANGELES — The Lakers rolled into Monday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on an eight-game winning streak, boasting a perfect 21-0 record against teams worse than .500, and feeling confident despite not having Anthony Davis (backside) and Rajon Rondo (hand) available to contribute.

“Our next-man-up mentality has been outstanding this year,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel, whose squad, despite being down three starters, dominated Oklahoma City on Saturday to polish off a challenging back-to-back on the road.

“And we all understand that it’s not the one or two guys who have to move up, slide up the depth chart. When you have a key guy out there, everybody’s just gotta play a little bit better, a little bit stronger, contribute a little bit more, make a few more hustle plays and whatnot.”

But this is the don’t-just-talk-about-it NBA. You have to perform. Even against struggling opponents. For at least three quarters.

After an uninspired start, the Lakers restored order in a hurry for a 128-99 victory over a plucky Cleveland squad at Staples Center. In the second half, the Lakers shot 64.4 percent from the field (29 for 45) and put up 81 points – the franchise’s most in any half since a Nov. 17, 1987 game against Portland.

“The second half, once we felt like we got the game under control, then everybody starts feeling confident,” Vogel said. “We try to preach pace … and it came around.”

LeBron James was back on the court after missing the Lakers’ victory in Oklahoma City because he wasn’t feeling well. On Monday, he finished with a game-high 31 points and eight assists – the third of which pushed him past Isiah Thomas (9,061 assists) for sole possession of eighth place on the NBA’s all-time assists list.

With Davis still feeling the effects of a scary fall last week, Dwight Howard served as James’ sidekick Monday: Howard scored a season-high 21 points, going 9 for 11 from the floor, and grabbed a season-best 15 rebounds.

“I don’t look at the stat sheet, I’m just happy to be out there playing basketball,” Howard said. “Playing in L.A. has been such a blessing for me and I cherish every single moment. So when I walk on the floor, can’t do nothing but give 135 percent and have fun in the process.”

On the fun front, with 3:58 left in the game and the crowd urging him on, Howard drilled his third 3-pointer (on five attempts) this season.

“They’ve been shooting better than me,” Lakers shooting guard Danny Green, a career 40.3 percent 3-point shooter, said of Howard and fellow center JaVale McGee, who are shooting 60 percent and 66.7 percent, respectively. “I’m gonna get some tips from them.”

The Lakers (33-7) weren’t having such a good time early. After scoring just 21 first-quarter points, they fell behind by as many 14 points in the second quarter. But a 9-2 spurt in the span of about a minute and a half – featuring an arching 3-pointer and nifty 4-foot floater from veteran reserve Jared Dudley – cut Cleveland’s lead to 39-32.

“Well, he’s not gonna get to the rim,” surmised James, evaluating Dudley’s floater game. “He knows his game; he’s gonna shoot 3s and he’s gonna shoot floaters. He has great touch – and we needed that, too.”

The Lakers kept chipping away, finishing the half trailing by only one point and promptly taking their first lead on their first shot of the second half, a floater from Green that made it 49-48.

Six minutes later, their lead was 10 points. They got it to 72-60 on a behind-the-back give-and-go in transition, with McGee returning the ball to James for a serious slam with 4:05 to go in the third quarter,

And then the Lakers had a 14-point lead of their own when Quinn Cook buried a 3-pointer with 2:20 to go in the third quarter.

The advantage only increased thereafter. James stepped on the gas to make sure of it. He charged in for reverse layups, lofted up deep 3-pointers and cut across the lane for fallaway jumpers as he danced his way to 23 second-half points.

The Lakers continued to pour it on in the final period, when they outscored the Cavs 44-29.

Six Lakers finished in double figures, including Avery Bradley, who contributed 12 points (including nine of the Lakers’ first 15). Kyle Kuzma added 11 and Alex Caruso and Green both had 10.

For Cleveland (12-28), former UCLA star Kevin Love led all five starters in double figures with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Tristan Thompson turned in a professional effort, often guarding his former teammate James and finishing with 17 points (on 8-for-11 shooting) and 10 rebounds.

“We had a lot of battles in practice before, too,” said James, recalling past scrimmage battles while both he and Thompson were Cavs teammates. “Double-T is definitely a great defender, being able to guard bigs, guard smalls and things of that nature. You just gotta try to be very decisive with your moves and don’t play around with the ball too much – and be able to finish.”

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