Final Dime: Cavaliers 93, Lakers 87
LeBron James led everyone with 37 points in Thursday's win over L.A.
David Liam Kyle
The reigning MVP played that role to perfection, extinguishing the Lakers’ run and willing the Wine and Gold past the World Champs – 93-87 – on Thursday night at The Q.
In a matchup of the game’s two best players, it was LeBron who emerged victorious for the second time this season – going 8-for-15 from the floor in the second half, while Kobe Bryant was just 4-for-15. The Lakers’ superstar finished with four points in the fourth quarter; LeBron led everyone with a dozen.
“I don’t want to look too far into beating one team twice,” reasoned James. “The Championship still goes through L.A. It doesn’t matter if you beat the team four times; you still have to beat them in the Finals to take that trophy away from them.”
After basically going wire-to-wire in the Christmas Day win in L.A., the Cavaliers trailed for most of the night in Thursday’s battle. It wasn’t until Anthony Parker drained a three-pointer late in the third quarter that Cleveland had its first lead, 60-59.
The Cavaliers would eventually extend their lead to seven – 87-80 – with just 2:48 to play in the ballgame. But Ron Artest drilled a three-pointer and after hitting a pair of free throws, Kobe hit a jumper to tie the game at 87-87.
At the point, “the Closer” went to work – scoring on a layup and splitting two sets of free throws to extend the Cavaliers’ lead to four. Anderson Varejao added three more free throws to secure the season sweep.
Playing without an injured Mo Williams, the Wine and Gold fell behind early. But as LeBron began heating up, so did the Cavaliers. James finished 13-for-25 from the floor for a game-high 37 points, adding nine assists, five boards, two steals and a block.
LeBron was just 1-for-9 from three-point range, but finished 10-of-13 from the stripe.
Once again, Shaquille O’Neal was strong against his former club, following up with 13 points, six boards and three assists. Rounding out the productive Cavaliers frontcourt was J.J. Hickson – who had his finest game as a pro, doubling-up with 11 points and 14 boards.
“We always play well against the good teams,” said Shaq. “I said coming in that we match up well with anybody. We knew it was going to be a tough test for us, and we stood up to the test.”
The Wild Thing continued his strong run, leading the bench with 11 points and eight boards.
The Lakers shot 52 percent after the first quarter, but finished at just under 39 percent from the floor. Cleveland held the Lakers to just 41 second-half points.
Cleveland gets a measure of revenge for last year’s losses and now owns the season series against the Lakers – something that might come in handy should the Cavaliers still be playing in June.
The Wine and Gold look to make it four straight when welcome Kevin Durant and the Thunder to The Q on Saturday night.
2. The Cavaliers have now won seven of their last nine games against L.A., including five of the last six at The Q.
3. By taking the season series against the Lakers, the Wine and Gold have now swept Kobe and Co. in three of the last four seasons (2006-07 and 2007-08).
4. For the second time in three seasons, LeBron James finished as the leading vote-getter in the NBA All-Star Balloting program, garnering a total of 2,549,693 votes. The 25-year-old superstar became the first player in balloting history to draw at least 2.5 million votes on three separate occasions.
5. With talk of the Troy Smith-Kim Kardashian party scheduled after the game at the Barley House on W. 6th, LeBron was asked about an hour before Thursday’s contest if he would be in attendance. LeBron wryly responded: “I have my own party going down in about 56 minutes.”
6. After spraining his left shoulder in Tuesday night’s win over Toronto, Mo Williams was in street clothes for Thursday’s matchup with L.A. The All-Star point guard is expected to miss the next 4-to-6 weeks. Delonte West got his first start of the season in the place of Williams and committed just a single turnover in 43 minutes of action.
7. The Cavaliers are now 15-5 (.750) against the Western Conference this season and, with Thursday’s win, have now taken 12 straight games against Pacific Division clubs – including 8-0 this season.
8. J.J. Hickson was outstanding on Thursday night, registering his first double-double with a career-high 14 rebounds along with 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting.
9. In the Cavaliers’ last 15 home games, they are now 14-1 – averaging 103.3 points on .513 shooting, while holding their foes to just 93.6 points on .435 shooting.
10. Jack Nicholson wasn’t in the house, but Thursday’s Cavaliers-Lakers game brought out some stars. Hip-hop superstar, Lil’ Wayne, was seated courtside, Grammy-winning recording artist, Mýa, seated baseline and – last but not least – Christopher Mintz-Plasse a/k/a “McLovin” from the seminal comedy, Superbad.
The diminutive “McLovin” even made a postgame appearance in the Cavaliers locker room. LeBron shouted, “What’s up, Lovin?!” when he walked in. (LeBron was not pleased about him wearing Kobe’s new Nikes into the Cavaliers locker room, but offered to outfit the famous geek with a pair of his own.)