(Harry How/Getty Images)
Cavs Win As Kobe and LeBron Duel for Final Time
Kobe Bryant might be 16 games away from retiring and LeBron James may be in his 13th season, but — in their final game against one another — both looked like they were at the peak of their primes.
Bryant — who had missed four of his previous six games due to a sore shoulder — racked up 26 points on an 11-of-16 clip, while James countered with 24 points and seven assists, leading the Cavaliers past the Lakers, 120-108.
“One thing about Kobe, he can always get it going,” said Cleveland interim coach Tyronn Lue, who played alongside Bryant from 1998-2001. “No matter how old he is, you know he’s capable of getting it going every single game.
“In big games like this on TNT vs. LeBron, you know he’s always going to be ready for these games.”
While every one of James’ vicious dunks received a booming mix of cheers and boos from the sold-out Staples Center crowd, Bryant responded with some craftier offense.
The 20-year veteran hit multiple fadeaway jumpers over James and even got him to bite on a turnaround pump-fake, which led to an easy layup.
“I told LeBron, ‘Let me catch it on the post (and) I’ll score when I’m 80,’” Bryant said. “That’s like grown-man, old-man game.”
While both superstars were cooking throughout the contest, it was a newly acquired Cavalier who stole the limelight from the jump. Starting in place of Kevin Love (knee), Channing Frye made some noise in his eighth game with Cleveland, providing 11 points in the first quarter alone.
The big man went 4-of-4 in the opening period on his way to scoring a season-high 21 points (8-of-10), while knocking down five 3-pointers.
“We just didn’t stick to the game plan, especially to start the game,” head coach Byron Scott said. “Especially Channing Frye and some of the coverage that we had. We kind of let him get loose. He had a big night and was basically the x-factor.”
The Lakers trimmed their deficit to 51-48 late in the second quarter, but Cleveland (46-18) responded with an 8-2 run to give itself a cushion that it would maintain the rest of the way.
Los Angeles (14-52) wasn’t lacking on offense, shooting 52.5 percent and scoring 54 points in the paint, but it also couldn’t prevent the Cavs from cashing in from deep. Led by Frye, Cleveland hit 16 3-pointers while holding the Lakers to only seven.
Kyrie Irving complemented James with 26 points and nine assists, as four other Cavaliers also scored in double figures. The Lakers received a strong effort from D’Angelo Russell (24 points, four 3-pointers), but it was clear that the night was all about Bryant and James.
“I wish I could play against him every single night,” James said. “Just that competitive juice; just that feeling of going against one of the greatest. You can never take that for granted.”
The Mamba hit for an efficient 26 points on 11/16 shooting while locking up against Lebron James all night.https://t.co/HjD2F5LFf3— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 11, 2016
Jordan Clarkson scored only five points on a 2-of-12 clip, while missing all six of his shots from 3-point range. … Marcelo Huertas scored 11 of his career-high 13 points in the first half. … Bryant scored 15 points in the first quarter on a 7-of-10 mark.