Final Dime: Cavaliers 104, Lakers 99
Ramon Sessions led everyone with 32 points in Wednesday's huge win at The Q.
David Liam Kyle
Just over a month after absorbing a 55-point beatdown in Los Angeles, a focused and intense Cavalier team jumped on the reeling LakeShow right out of the gate, and never let up – stunning the basketball world with an emotional 104-99 upset of the World Champs on Wednesday night at The Q.
The Wine and Gold were the aggressors early, taking a 29-21 lead after one quarter. The 29 points scored in first quarter was four more than Cleveland scored in the entire first half against L.A. in the embarrassing 112-57 loss on January 11. And that first quarter was an early indicator that the Lakers were in a dogfight they weren’t expecting.
The Cavaliers kept the pressure on in the second period and sent the sold-out crowd into a frenzy when Anthony Parker drained a trey at the buzzer to give Cleveland a 51-46 halftime edge.
In the second stanza, the Cavaliers never trailed and, at one point, extended their lead to as many as a dozen – including a 96-84 advantage with just 2:27 to play.
But everyone in the pulsating arena knew that the Champs wouldn’t go quietly. And after a pair of Cavalier turnovers, the Lakers had worked their way to within a bucket, 99-97, on Pau Gasol’s put-back with 24.9 remaining.
At that point, the game came down to Wednesday night’s star – Ramon Sessions – who calmly drained five of six free throws in the closing seconds, icing one of the most memorable victories in recent Cavaliers memory.
“I said before the game that we had to go out there and compete and be physical and aggressive,” said Coach Byron Scott. “My main message was that they put their pants on just like we do. You don’t back down to anyone on that team – you go out there and play hard. And I thought our guys did that.”
Mo Williams got the start on Wednesday, but two quick fouls just three minutes into the game forced Coach Byron Scott to turn to Sessions. And the fourth-year guard from Nevada responded spectacularly – leading all scorers with 32 points, going 9-of-16 from the floor and 13-for-14 from the stripe.
“It was a big game for us going into the break,” said Sessions. “You couldn’t ask for anything else than going into it with a win against a great team like the Lakers.”
But Sessions was just one of Wednesday night’s heroes. J.J. Hickson did yeoman’s work in the paint – finishing with 13 points and a team-high 15 boards.
Anthony Parker pitched in with 18 points and a career-high tying nine assists while teaming with Jamario Moon and Christian Eyenga to frustrate Kobe Bryant – who was just 8-of-24 from the floor and didn’t attempt a single free throw all night.
Antawn Jamison doubled-up once again, notching 19 points and 10 boards – going 8-of-18 from the field.
The fourth starter in double-figures was rookie, Christian Eyenga, who finished with 10 points, including one of the most powerful dunks of the NBA season. On that monster jam, the high-flying first-year player worked his way baseline around Kobe, lifted off and crushed the right-handed slam over an outstretched Pau Gasol.
The loss was the struggling Lakers third straight while the Wine and Gold, which went winless in 26 games before snapping their skid last Friday – have won two of three, beating both Los Angeles teams in a five-day span.
After a rough first half, culminating in Wednesday’s electric victory at The Q, the Cavaliers will get a week off for the All-Star Break before resuming action in one week against the Rockets at The Q.
2. Tonight’s matchup was the 99th game in the series between Cleveland and the Lakers, with Los Angeles holding a 58-41 series advantage. The Cavaliers, however, have won six of the last seven against L.A. at The Q.
3. In the crowd for Wednesday’s game were Browns players Joe Haden and Josh Cribbs along with former Brown, Bob Golic. From the Lake Erie Monsters – who moved into a first-place tie with a 4-2 win at The Q earlier in the day – were defenseman Ray Macias and left wing Patrick Bordeleau
4. This weekend in L.A., Boobie will participate in the Three-Point Shootout for the second time in his career. Gibson finished the unofficial first half of the season shooting .443 from beyond the arc – good for 3rd in the Eastern Conference and 4th overall.
5. Christian Eyenga admitted before Sunday night’s game that he wears uniform No. 8 because Kobe Bryant was his favorite player growing up in the Congo.
6. In Byron Scott’s final year in Los Angeles – 1996-97 – he befriended a rookie fresh out of high school named Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba spoke at shootaround about his relationship with the Lakers legend.
“Byron was a mentor when I came into the league,” said the future Hall of Famer. “I have a special affinity towards him. So, it’s tough to see him go through this. He’s competitive as hell, so it’s killing him.”
7. The Cavaliers are averaging 25.0 assists per game in February, tops in the NBA.
8. On Wednesday, J.J. Hickson notched his fifth straight double-double. He’s doubled-up ten times in his last 14 games – 16.2 points and 12.4 rebounds over that span. Over his last five outings, J.J. is averaging 6.8 offensive rebounds per game – best in the NBA during that stretch.
9. With 11:13 to play in the second quarter, Ramon Sessions hit his first three-pointer of the season after missing his first five attempts. The last trey Sessions hit was on December 11, 2009 against the Lakers and is 11-for-62 in his career.
10. Following this weekend’s All-Star festivities in Tinseltown, the Cavaliers have just 26 games remaining. Cleveland will play their next four after the break at The Q and have 15 remaining at home overall – including a March 29 meeting with Miami. The Wine and Gold play six of their final nine games on the road.
Joe Gabriele is the official beat writer for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Cavs.com. You can follow Joe and send him your questions on Twitter at @CavsJoeG.