Cavs Rally Falls Short in L.A.
Andrew D. Bernstein
Eventually, Kobe Bryant – who’s now notched 40-plus points in each of his last three games – took over. But until those closing moments, Byron Scott’s squad put a good scare into the LakeShow, falling 97-92 in Tinseltown.
L.A.’s Matt Barnes scored on a layup early in the third quarter to make it 65-46 and it looked like the Cavs were in for another road blowout at the hands of the Lakers. But after chipping away through the third, Ramon Sessions keyed a 9-0 run to start the final period and Cleveland found itself down just three, 82-79, with just over seven minutes to play.
But the white-hot Bryant bounced back, canning a pair of 18-footers to keep the Cavaliers at bay.
“I never look at games like this as a moral victory, that’s the bottom line,” said Coach Scott, who got a huge pregame ovation. “The bottom line is we want to win the basketball game.”
Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 21 points – his fourth straight contest of scoring at least 20. The precocious point went an even 8-for-16 from the floor, including 2-of-3 from long distance.
Ramon Sessions netted eight of his 12 points in Cleveland’s second-half push and Anderson Varejao and Omri Casspi added 11 points apiece. The Wild Thing ruled the boards once again, snagging 14 more rebounds. In 11 games this season, Anderson has grabbed double-digit boards in all but two.
“The second team, we’re all about pushing the ball, pushing the tempo; be a little more aggressive,” said Sessions. “We’re out there for limited minutes and we have to take advantage of those minutes. Tristan did well on the boards, Semih’s getting used to what’s going out there. It all helped out.”
Rookie Tristan Thompson barely missed his first double-double – adding nine points and eight boards.
Four of the Lakers starters tallied double-figures and the fifth, Derek Fisher, led everyone with 10 assists. On the evening, Bryant was 15-for-31 from the field, 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
The Cavaliers wrap up the West coast leg of their longest roadie of the season at 2-4 and head to Charlotte for a Martin Luther King Day matinee on Tobacco Road.
“Dan Gilbert can take all the credit he wants, Chris Grant can take all the credit he wants, same with Byron Scott,” said a straight-faced Brown. “But you have to understand: Nick Gilbert is the guy who got Kyrie Irving. I hate to burst the other guys' bubbles, but Nick deserves the credit.”
“The message is clear – there are no excuses,” said Scott before the game. “You cannot use back-to-back as a crutch. That was my message – we’re not going to use it as an excuse, we’re gonna come out here and play and see what happens. The young guys have been through it, the team has been through it. There’s no excuses.”
“I think I lost it for a minute or two,” said Casspi. “I went to the locker room at halftime and told myself ‘it happens and you keep going.’”
“I think our team attitude right now is that we’re contenders,” said the freshman guard. “I feel like we’re a different team than the one from last year. And every team we play against, we feel like we can win. I think that’s the attitude, collectively, of everybody.”