Sunday, February 8, 2009

23 and out!

CLEVELAND -- 23 Cavalier home wins to start the season were snapped with one ball of fury from the Lakers in the 2nd half over at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The Lakers won 101-91 to go 5-0 on their road trip and end a long ride of home success for James' Kingdom.

Why is Kobe Bryant not shown in the picture above? First of all, Kobe was deathly ill from apparently the nastiest flu of the year. After the game, Lamar Odom told ESPN Reporter Lisa Salters that Bryant had moments of vomiting and IV's throughout the game. In scenarios like this one it's up to the team mates to step up. ENTER Lamar Odom.

Can you believe the way Lamar Odom is playing lately? He came on like a big Gila Monster in the second half on Sunday, dominating the game like Neo dominated the Matrix. In all, Odom was clearly the player of the game, scoring 28 points on 13 of 19 shooting. Best of all, he collected 17 rebounds! Without question, this is the best performance of the season for Odom, who now takes an opportunity and runs with it.

Kobe wouldn't be completely silent this afternoon. Even though he was held without a point through most of the 4th quarter, his first field goal of the 4th was a killer: a high rainbow shot that nearly grazed the ceiling and fell in to break the Cavaliers' back. One could sense that after this last gasp, Kobe was spent, and surely enough he retreated for relief after a timeout.

Last season, the Lakers went 9-0 on the longest road trip of that season. This year, the Lakers go on an East Coast swing against the two toughest teams in the NBA and beat both. This is an incredible run for the Lakers, who figured to reel after losing Bynum for extended time.

A Missed Opportunity...

LeBron James is, unfairly or no, compared to Kobe Bryant every day. The Cavs were riding a great home court advantage that dispatched the Celtics in short order and stomped the Jazz on the drop of a hat. After Kobe dropped 61 points on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, James did his best imitation with a 52 point, 9 rebound, 11 assist effort.

This year, James has some King's Men to assist the King. Williams and Szczerbiak chipped in with their first full season with the Cavs. On Sunday, they had a chance to really make a statement with a win against the Lakers.

Instead, LeBron James struggled, going 5 for 20 from the field and only 4 for 8 from the Free Throw line. That was a terrible performance, let's face it, and worse yet, James didn't have a flu to use as an excuse. Credit, of course, should be dealt to the Lakers for dedicating the game to containing James' attack. Despite a very good 12 assists, James +/- rating for the game was a lousy -12. Go figure.

Nonetheless, I'm disappointed. I thought the Cavs would have maintained their home court dominance and likely stamped their mark as "Best in the East". I thought LeBron James would outduel Kobe Bryant and post his usual terrific game. Things started promisingly enough for Cleveland, entering halftime with a ten point lead. The second half was when it fell apart. Their traps were opened up by quick moves to the basket, and Lamar Odom was after almost every ball in the Lakers end of the court. Holy moly!

Fortunately, the Cavs can take heart that despite one of the worse performances of James' season, they were within 5 points as late as 3 minutes to go in the game. It's just a matter of closing out on defense. The Cavs are fine.

Some teams have their day, and some days aren't yours. The only problem is, for Cleveland, it happened under a national spotlight!

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