The Los Angeles Lakers suffered perhaps their worst loss of a season filled with head-scratching defeats, falling to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers 100-94.
The injury-riddled Lakers were unable to contain the guard tandem of Kyrie Irving and C.J. Miles, who combined for 56 points on Tuesday night at Quicken Loans Arena to lead their team to just its fifth win in 22 games.
The electrifying Irving, who returned after missing 11 games with a fractured finger, scored 28 points and dished out 11 assists, while shooting guard Miles connected on 5-of-10 3-pointers to notch 28 points in his first game of the season as a starter.
The Cavs' Brazilian center, Anderson Varejao, showed some scoring punch with 20 points and also hauled down nine rebounds.
The Lakers, meanwhile, got strong performances out of their top two stars, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, but their lack of depth proved costly again as they lost their third straight game and dropped to 9-13 on the season.
Bryant scored 42 points and Howard added 19 points and 20 rebounds, but only one other player - Metta World Peace, who added 13 points - scored in double figures on the night.
Los Angeles fell behind by 15 points at halftime and were unable to erase that deficit despite the offensive brilliance of Bryant, who scored 26 points in the second half.
The Lakers are struggling in the absence of two injured starters - power forward Pau Gasol and point guard Steve Nash - and are just 4-8 with new coach Mike D'Antoni on the sidelines and 1-5 in December.
D'Antoni was hired to replace Mike Brown, who was abruptly dismissed after the star-studded team got off to a disappointing 1-4 start. The team briefly got on track under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff, going 4-1 to run its record to .500, but has struggled again since D'Antoni took the reins.
High expectations surround the Lakers this season after the offseason acquisitions of Howard, a three-time defensive player of the year, and Nash, a two-time league MVP who is currently out of action with a non-displaced leg fracture.
In other action Tuesday night in the NBA, Carmelo Anthony scored 45 points to lead the New York Knicks to a 100-97 victory over their crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets.
The Knicks, whose record improved to 16-5, best in the Eastern Conference, will host the Lakers on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.
Elsewhere, the Denver Nuggets snagged a 101-94 road victory over the Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards topped the New Orleans Hornets 77-70 and the L.A. Clippers continued their strong start to the 2012-13 season by defeating the Chicago Bulls 94-89. EFE