Lakers – Cavaliers Running Diary

Lebron KobeAs always, feel free to refresh your browser for live updates throughout the game … On second thought, I guess they wouldn’t technically be “live” updates since you have to press refresh. But whatever.

Previous Lakers – Cavaliers Running Diary/Postgame
Lakers – Cavaliers Running Diary 1-19-2009
Lakers 105, Cavs 88: Postgame

Inactives
Lakers: Andrew Bynum
Cavaliers: Tarence Kinsey, Eric Snow, Delonte West

Starters
Lakers: Fish, Kobe, Luke, Lamar and Pau
Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Like assistant coach Jim Cleamons told us before the game, the key for the Lakers is to get everybody involved. Cleveland’s too good in general, and particularly at home (undefeated…) for L.A. not to have everyone on their roster contribute in some way.

First Quarter
12:00 I liked LeBron’s introduction. After his name’s announced and the fans start to lose their minds, he does the double-hand slap and salute with each and every Cavs player.

11:20 After Kobe missed his first perimeter jumper, LeBron hit his. Maybe that’ll make King James feel like he has his shot going from outside and keep him out of the lane a little better?

10:41 Mo Williams for three, with his first “Thanks-for-leaving-me-out-the-All-Star-game-Mr.-Stern” shot. Odom would answer with a nice move around Wallace to make it a 5-4 Cavs lead early.

7:43 Bryant used a nice cut to get inside the defense on consecutive possessions, receiving nice passes from nice-passing Gasol and Odom. If you’re L.A., you love that triangle action.

4:45 What stood out most in the first seven minutes was how effective offensively the Lakers were against Cleveland’s vaunted defense. Lamar and Pau between them were 5-of-6 from the field, generally abusing Big Z and Big Ben, respectively, en route to 10 of L.A.’s 20 points. The Cavs, however, shot the ball well too (8-of-15) to see L.A. take a 20-18 lead into a timeout.

1:34 Ty pointed out that “The Q” (Quicken Loans Arena) has this on their scoreboard: “The Diff.” So, when Cleveland’s up 27-26, it says “+1.” Cleveland’s more of a liberal arts city than a mathematical one. Meanwhile, no team has yet to lead by more than three.

Center of Attention: A big difference, literally, between this game and L.A.’s 105-88 win at STAPLES was that the Lakers had their center (Andrew Bynum) and Cleveland was missing theirs (Z), which is no longer the case. And the Cavs weren’t shy about going to Z, who took eight shots and made five for 12 points; all but one of his shots was from the perimeter.

0:23.5 Wally Szczerbiak, he of the broken nose suffered last game, canned his first three despite having a big mask on his face before Bryant tied the game with two free throws. When Gasol was at the line on the previous possession, the Cavs put a Pittsburgh Steelers logo up on the jumbotron in hopes of inspiring boos. That was solid.

0:00 The quarter closed when Pavlovic converted a solid Anderson Varejao baseball pass for a last-second layup that gave Cleveland a 32-30 lead. Cleveland shot 50 percent, and the Lakers 54.5 in a well-played first quarter that looked nothing like L.A.’s opening stanza against Boston on Thursday. Kobe, by the way, guarded LeBron for almost the whole quarter and held him to 2-of-4 shooting for four points, without a free throw attempt.

Kobe LebronSecond Quarter
11:23 Ariza got all nasty on a Williams layup attempt. His arm arch looked kinda like the arc of a Jean Claude Van Dam downward roundhouse kick. A word to describe that would be “swoosh.”

9:27 Vujacic drove past his man, extended around Varejao and finished with his left hand off glass, which doesn’t happen too often (thus deserving the mention). Farmar followed with a J to make it 37-36 Cavs. Speaking of Varejao, his unconventional body antics have spurred his team’s bench, but the Lakers are still doing all the low-post scoring (22-8 in the paint).

7:07 Lamar Odom has terrific defensive instincts, particularly on the ball, and showed us much by staying right with J.J. Hickson next to the rim before forcing a jump ball. Vujacic made a nice play to control the tip from Odom, then promptly tossed an alley-oop to Ariza for a 40-39 lead.

4:58 As Williams hits another jumper to give him a game-high 13 points, the Lakers trailed by just two as Kobe and Pau continued to get rest on the bench. Pau’s rest is paramount here, because he’s been averaging 42.5 minutes since Bynum went down, and good minutes from Farmar, Vujacic, Ariza, Odom and Mihm allowed the Spaniard to chill.

4:26 Szczerbiak just nailed his third triple in as many attempts to push the Cavs to 63.5 percent (7-of-11) as a team (Mo was also 3-of-4). That’s extremely high, especially compared to L.A.’s 1-of-5.

2:50 Make that 8-of-12. After James hit 1-of-2 free throws, he somehow ended up with the loose ball in the corner and pulled up from deep to give Cleveland it’s biggest lead at 55-45 after the four-point play.

1:00 Kobe, Lamar and Pau were all 5-of-9 after Bryant hit 7-footer in the lane to put L.A. back within six.

0:00.9 Just as quickly, the Cavs pushed the lead back to 10 as Williams first pump-faked Walton into the air to get to the line (drawing Kobe’s ire) and then picking Bryant’s pocket with four seconds left to convert a layup near the buzzer. Cavs 61, Lakers 51 at the half despite L.A.’s domination inside (34-14). Threes have been the biggest difference, with Cleveland hitting seven more than the Lakers. Actually, the Cavs also held a three-board edge on the offensive glass, but nearly everything else is the same: Both teams have 14 assists, eight fouls, four steals and five turnovers.

Halftime
Four little girls, the “Cactus Cuties,” performed a bunch of old songs. I have no further comments on that.

Big ZThird Quarter
11:25 Fisher nailed a three to bring L.A. within nine after Wally, starting for Pavlovic (right ankle sprain), hit his first jumper from two. That was the start of a big Lakers run…

10:08 … After Walton found Odom for an easy two, Bryant hit a pull-up jumper on LeBron, who may guard Bryant all half with Pavlovic out. Subsequently, after Odom swatted Wallace at the rim, Bryant pulled up again to cap a 9-0 run that made it 63-60 Cavs. The run grew to 11-0 when Walton (who’d just drawn a foul on Wallace) scored on his favorite baseline turnaround to make it a one-point game.

***Kobe’s Suffering From Flu-Like Symptoms***
Just got a text from Lakers spokesman John Black that Kobe Bryant is suffering from flu-like symptoms. He took an IV at halftime, and was vomiting. Looking back at the first half, this makes sense because Bryant for the most part floated on offense and focused on sticking to LeBron on defense (yet still managed 13 points).

7:37 Big Z would finally put some vasoline on the open wound with a free throw, Cleveland’s first point since the 11:43 mark.

4:26 Cleveland can’t afford to lose Big Z’s shooting completely, so when they put in Varejao off the bench they also throw Boobie Gibson out there for Ben Wallace. Szczerbiak essentially moves to the four in this scenario, though LeBron can slide over to help as well.

3:49 L.A. took its first lead since the 7:00 mark of the second quarter (40-39) when Odom scored back-to-back buckets off nice passes from Walton (three assists in the quarter) and Gasol (four assists in the game). Odom then added an and-1, again from Pau, to put the Lakers up 73-69.

Odom’s stat line at this point? How about 20 points, 12 boards and two assists, including nine points and four boards in the first eight minutes of the third. Of course, Wally nailed another triple to cut the lead to one.

Worst call in a while alert: LeBron air-balled a jumper, badly, and the refs assumed it must have been a foul even though Bryant didn’t even come close to him. He made both after missing his previous two free throws.

0:34.5 Odom’s been a monster tonight, grabbing Farmar’s fourth miss from three and sticking it back for a three-point lead at 80-77.

0:00.5 Oh, LO! ANOTHER put-back layup from Lamar, whose fantastic third quarter produced 15 and 10 from the lanky lefty. For the game, he’s already at 26 and 15. Those are season highs in both, after he had his previous season high in points (20) against Boston and rebounds (14) against New York on this trip.

Bottom line: L.A. outscored the Cavs 31-16 in the third quarter to produce a -5 up on “The Diff” board.

Lamar OdomFourth Quarter
11:40 Maybe a big miss from Vujacic? Wide-open, he couldn’t convert the first bench three of the game to make it an eight-point game. Then after Peezy cleared a defensive board from Varejao, Sasha missed from the top of the key to make the Lakers 3-of-15 from deep.

9:45 There’s Sasha, from two this time off a screen, to make it 84-77. Vujacic then made a nice play on defense, frustrating Mo into an offensive foul by frantically chasing him around screens as Sasha’s apt to do. Pau then stuffed LeBron on a layup attempt, and Powell converted his layup attempt to put L.A. up by nine.

Remember before the game when Clem said L.A. needed something from everybody tonight? That’s certainly what we’ve seen as L.A.’s made a 21-point turnaround since halftime.

8:11 Farmar swatted Boobie Gibson for his sixth block of the season, one off his career high for a year. The contributions continued to come in when Peezy hit another layup after a great over-the-top full-court pass from Farmar, putting L.A. up 10 for the first time.

5:43 Ariza stepped up this time, blocking LeBron’s three attempt after James made one on the previous possession to cut L.A.’s lead to seven. Kobe had been on the bench for the entire quarter, and Pau was 0-for-3 (12 points for the game) in the quarter, yet L.A. held their lead. After a TV timeout, Odom checked in for Powell and Bryant returned alongside Fisher, joining Pau and Ariza to try and close the game.

4:40 Is this Odom’s best game since the San Antonio WCFinals? Yes. By far. Not even close. He just grabbed another offensive board and stuck it back to get to 28 and 16.

3:33 Know how sick Kobe is? He just went over to the bench to drink a cup of water as Fish sunk two free throws. When’s the last time you saw that? Fish missed the second, and L.A. led 93-87.

2:48 Kobe’s fadeaway jumper almost reached our level 40 rows up before swishing directly through the hoop. What an absurd shot. Kobe had basically been hunched over at the right block with LeBron guarding before catching with 2:55 on the clock. He took a dribble, turned around, half faded away and threw the ball way up in the air for a 95-89 lead.

1:34 After Odom’s seventh offensive rebound, Gasol drew a foul on the rebound from Varejao, and converted both free throws for a 98-89 lead.

1:08 Sun Yue just smashed D.J. Mbenga with a two-handed blow to the back. Why? Gasol grabbed Kobe’s miss and slammed it home to dagger the Cavs at 101-91.

Hello to L.A.’s 6-0 road trip, cemented by huge wins at Boston and at Cleveland (and season-sweeps of both). Goodbye to Cleveland’s 23-0 home record.