CLEVELAND — There had to be a low point. The Los Angeles Lakers can only hope they’ve reached it.
This chaotic season has gotten worse.
Kyrie Irving scored 28 points in his return after missing 11 games with a broken finger, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 100-94 win over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, who look nothing like a team projected to win an NBA title — or anything else.
“This is one of the most challenging stretches of my 17 years, and the most baffling, too,” a puzzled Bryant said after the Lakers lost for the eighth time in 11 games. “We have the talent and personnel to do it, but we’re not, and it’s baffling. It’s extremely frustrating.
“It doesn’t make any sense. We’re still finding ways to lose games.”
Irving added 11 assists in 39 minutes and showed off his dizzying array of moves as the Cavs, who came in with just four wins, ended a five-game losing streak.
Bryant scored 42 points and Dwight Howard had 19 points and 20 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Lakers, who were still missing Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, from opening a four-game road trip with a with a loss that could sting for a while.
“We have to stop the bleeding — somehow,” said Howard, who forced a trade this summer from Orlando to join the Lakers and maybe win some championships. “We can’t let this kill our spirits too much. This is tough on all of us right now.
“We want to win. We’re sick of losing. We all understand that situations like this don’t last forever.”
C.J. Miles scored 28 in his first start this season, Anderson Varejao had 20 and Alonzo Gee 17 for the Cavs.
Los Angeles fell behind by 16 points in the third quarter, and despite Bryant’s valiant attempt to rescue them — he scored 16 in the fourth quarter — the Lakers dropped to 1-10 in games the superstar scores 30 or more points.
KNICKS 100, NETS 97: In New York, Carmelo Anthony scored a season-high 45 points, Jason Kidd made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left, and New York rallied from an early 17-point hole to beat Brooklyn.
Kidd finished with 18 points against his former team, who used to dominate the Knicks when he played in New Jersey. Now the series is tied at 1-1 since the Nets moved to Brooklyn, both games coming down to the tense final minutes.
Andray Blatche scored 23 points in place of Brook Lopez, who missed his sixth straight game with a sprained right foot. Deron Williams added 18 points and 10 assists, and Reggie Evans grabbed 18 rebounds, but the Nets lost their fifth straight game.
NUGGETS 101, PISTONS 94: In Auburn Hills, Mich., Ty Lawson had 26 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead Denver over Detroit.
Corey Brewer added 15 points and Andre Iguodala had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Nuggets, who rallied from a slow start in which they trailed by as many as 17 in the first quarter. JaVale McGee also had 12 points for Denver. Brandon Knight had 20 points and five assists for the Pistons. Jason Maxiell added 18 points, six blocks and six rebounds, and Rodney Stuckey scored 17 points.
Danilo Gallinari hit a 3-pointer with 1:48 left to give the Nuggets a 96-89 lead before Lawson’s driving layup with 1:15 remaining pushed it to 98-89.
CLIPPERS 94, BULLS 89: In Chicago, Blake Griffin had 22 points and 10 rebounds to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat Chicago for their seventh straight victory, the team’s longest winning streak in two decades.
Marco Belinelli hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute left to cut Chicago’s deficit to 89-87, but Chris Paul answered with a floater in the lane, then iced it with three free throws down the stretch as Los Angeles snapped the Bulls’ season-high three-game winning streak.
Paul finished with 18 points and four assists, below the 20 and 10 he averaged in his first dozen games against Chicago, but it was enough for the Clippers to sweep the season series for the first time since 2009-10.
Carlos Boozer scored 24 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for the Bulls, who had won five of six overall.