Were Lakers able to avoid 7th straight loss?

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Were Lakers able to avoid 7th straight loss?

From Comcast SportsNetLOS ANGELES (AP) -- Dwight Howard arrived at Staples Center expecting to sit out another game to rest his injured shoulder. He ended up helping the Los Angeles Lakers out of their longest losing streak in nearly six years, which made that shoulder feel a whole lot better.Howard had 22 points and 14 rebounds in his return from a three-game absence, and the Lakers snapped their six-game losing streak with a 113-93 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday night."When we play like this, we win, and we win big," Howard said. "We've just got to continue to learn from games like that, and hopefully we can just string together some wins."Kobe Bryant scored 23 points for the Lakers, who finally earned their first victory of 2013 while ending their longest skid since February 2007. Howard went 9 for 11 despite his torn labrum while leading Los Angeles to a comfortable victory over the lowly Cavaliers, who beat the Lakers last month.Steve Nash said the win was "mandatory" for the Lakers, and they played with an appropriate effort. Nash had 10 points and nine assists for the Lakers, whose skid has been severe enough to cause fans to worry about this star-packed roster's playoff chances even in mid-January."I don't want to overdo it, (but) I don't want to undersell it, either," Nash said. "We have to make up that ground. In so many areas, it was big to get a win tonight and have something to build on."After Oklahoma City ran the Lakers out of Staples Center on Friday night in a 116-101 victory, a downbeat coach Mike D'Antoni told his players that "our season starts Sunday." Opening day went well for the Lakers, but much bigger challenges loom -- including the Miami Heat's visit on Thursday.The Lakers' hopes of a run hinge on their defensive effort, and Bryant led a strong push against the Cavs."I though Kobe set the tone hawking the ball with (Kyrie) Irving," D'Antoni said. "Defense was much better with Dwight back in there."Irving and Dion Waiters scored 15 points apiece for Cleveland, which has lost seven of nine. Alonzo Gee added 14 points for the Cavaliers, who fell behind by 19 points in the first quarter of their second stop on a five-game West Coast road trip."We beat them the last time, but tonight they did a great job of containing me and everybody on the team," said Irving, who had seven assists. "We just got punched in the mouth in the first quarter. We just didn't have that fight in the first quarter, and it kind of killed us the rest of the game."Cleveland (9-30) is barely ahead of Washington (6-28) for the NBA's worst record.Pau Gasol missed his fourth straight game for Los Angeles with a concussion, while top backup Jordan Hill is likely out for the season with an injured hip. Earl Clark had another solid game in the starting lineup with 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots, while Antawn Jamison added 16 points and hit four of the Lakers' 13 3-pointers.Howard injured his shoulder earlier this month during a game against the Clippers, and he aggravated the injury last Sunday while grabbing a career high-tying 26 rebounds against Denver. He sat out for the past week to rest the injury, but didn't appear limited while patrolling the paint against the Cavs despite committing seven turnovers."Getting beat like that is embarrassing," said Cavs guard C.J. Miles, who had five points on 1-for-9 shooting. "You definitely can't live with this. That's the reason why it's really a big deal to us in this locker room, because we're striving to get better. There are going to be some bumps. We know that. We're not going to use that youth thing as a crutch, but there's some nights where we're playing a veteran team, and tonight it showed."Before the game, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott declined to follow the lead of fellow 80s Lakers greats Magic Johnson and James Worthy in hammering the current Lakers for their defense, toughness and D'Antoni's strategy. Scott understandably has bigger concerns than his ex-teammates-turned-pundits who have mercilessly ripped D'Antoni, Howard and even Bryant in recent weeks.Los Angeles looked sharp early, taking 37-18 lead in the final minute of the first quarter on a 3-pointer by Bryant. But the Lakers committed turnovers on six straight possessions late in the second half, allowing Cleveland to trim their lead to nine points.The Lakers still scored 57 points in the first half with 17 assists on their 20 field goals.NOTES:Nash hit three free throws, improving to 18 for 18 this season and increasing his minuscule lead on Mark Price for the best free throw percentage in NBA history. ... Cleveland continues its road trip in Sacramento on Monday night against the Kings, who have lost four straight. ... The Lakers won despite 22 turnovers, including 18 by their starting lineup.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."