When Lebron James left for South Beach, he not only took his talents from the Cavaliers, he also robbed them blind of their spirit and pride. It’s incredible to think that just a season ago, this Cleveland team held the best record in the NBA and tonight, they could barely put the ball in the hoop to save their dignity.
12,13,16,16 – These were Cleveland’s point totals for each quarter. After the first 12 minutes, the Lakers led by 15 points. After one half, they led by 32. After the third, the lead had ballooned to 51 points. And by the final buzzer, it was a 55 point win for the home team. It had gotten so unbelievably ugly for the visiting team that the crowd at Staples Center began to cheer when the Cavs got their 29th point.
It’s hard to say how the Cavs might have played if Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson and Anderson Varejao were on the floor. It might’ve been a much closer contest than tonight’s embarrassing display. As much as missing personnel can affect a team’s performance, however, so too can the opposing team’s imposing will, and the Lakers had a lot of it tonight.
From the opening three straight from behind the arc by Derek Fisher and Ron Artest, to Kobe Bryant’s lob to Andrew Bynum for a dunk, to the ease with which they stole possession after possession from the Cavs, it was quite obvious how far the Lakers saw they could take this game and boy did they make a run for it. The home team led in every possible stat column and played relentlessly on both ends of the court until the very end.
Seven Lakers scored in double figures, led by Andrew Bynum’s 15 points on 7-9 plus five blocked shots. Since he came back, Bynum has played like he is making up for lost time and he looks like an absolute beast out there doing it, especially on the defensive end. He refuses to let up, at one point blocking and continuously fighting for the defensive board until the Lakers had control of the ball.
Kobe Bryant, who had only two points going into the third quarter, realized very early on that he probably could’ve stayed home tonight. Bryant wasn’t looking for his shot, instead opting to deliver the ball to a teammate. In one sequence, Pau Gasol stole the ball and handed it off to a lone Bryant by the hoop. And what did Bryant do? He tossed the ball against the glass for Bynum to finish. Bryant had 13 points on 5-10 and eight assists!
And how’s this for a balanced attack for the remainder of the double-digit scorers: Ron Artest – 15 points, six assists; Pau Gasol – 13 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals; Derek Fisher – 10 points, four rebounds, three steals; Lamar Odom – 13 points, five rebounds, two assists; and Shannon Brown – 13 points (three from a ridiculous half-court short at the third quarter buzzer), five rebounds, two assists.
Phil Jackson emptied his bench and for once, in quite a while, the Lakers threw a punch at their opponent and knocked them out…completely. Their new defensive system hummed beautifully tonight, forcing the Cavs into 19 turnovers. The Lakers had 12 turnovers of their own, but consider their 25 assists on 46 made field goals.
Dominant wins such as tonight aren’t easy to come by, but if the Lakers can take anything from this, let it be that when play is focused and full of effort, you give yourselves an even greater opportunity at victory.
Pre-game Thoughts: The Cavs have lost 10 games in a row. Think this is a trap game for the Lakers?
Half-time Thoughts: 57-25 – Maybe the Cavs think Lebron is still out there, because frankly, they’re playing like it, not doing a darn thing and perhaps waiting for someone (anyone!) on their team to take over. Pau Gasol leads the Lakers with 13 points. For the Cavs, J.J. Hickson led at the half…with five points.
Most Thoughtless Play/Player(s) of the Game: The Cavs, who never scored more than 16 points in a quarter and look dejected and defeated the entire game.
Most Thought-filled Play/Player(s) of the Game: Been waiting a long while to credit this, but this lopsided victory wouldn’t be what it was if not for the Lakers defense.