Cavs spoil Christmas for Lakers
By Bryan Chu, for NBA.com
Posted Friday December 25, 2009 10:47PM
LOS ANGELES (NBA.com exclusive) -- Boos rained down. Fans tossed foam fingers and water bottles onto the court.
With four minutes remaining in the game, Laker fans seemingly lost their composure. For much of the game, the Lakers did too.
Five technical fouls were handed out in the game, four assessed to the Lakers including two given to Lamar Odom, who was ejected in the final minutes of the game.
Not much went right for the Lakers as the Cavaliers had a stellar outing, stunning the defending champs, 102-87, on Christmas Day at Staples Center.
"It was a very testy game for both teams," said Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who had 26 points on 9-for-19 shooting and nine assists. "Both teams were very physical and that's the way it has to be."
While the Cavaliers (23-8) downplayed the importance of sending a message to the Lakers, James said the game had a different meaning.
"It was about sending a message to ourselves," he said. "It shows us this is who we should be. That's the measuring stick."
With the loss, the Lakers (23-5) are now tied with Boston, who beat Orlando on Friday, for the best record in the NBA. The Lakers had their 5-game win streak and 11-game home winning streak snapped as they head to Sacramento on a back-to-back Saturday.
Heading into this matchup, the Lakers said their last Christmas Day matchup against Boston was a statement game and an accurate barometer of where they were in the season. This game became one too.
"It's a good wake-up call for us," said Bryant, who had a game-high 35 points.
"That was not a very nice way to spend Christmas Day," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
In the win, Cleveland guard Mo Williams recorded a team-high 28 points and four assists. Forward Jamario Moon, who had 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting, had a big game off the bench.
"Defensively, Moon and Anthony Parker did an unbelievable job on Bryant," James said. "One thing we tried to do was build a wall. Build a wall around him and let him see multiple faces."
That wall collapsed on Bryant.
Bryant was 11-for-32 shooting, including 5-for-16 in the second half. To his credit, he did have nine rebounds, eight assists, and was a perfect 12-for-12 from the line. Despite tempers flaring and the game being physical, the Cavaliers remained poised, even after fans threw objects on to the floor.
"They did a nice job of being resilient no matter what the atmosphere," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said.
Bryant on the way the fans reacted: "You don't ever want to see that happen."
The Cavaliers have now won eight of their last nine and showed every bit of the championship-caliber team they can be.
They were poised. They dictated the pace of the game. They weathered the Lakers' runs.
They played suffocating defense, and maybe, most importantly, they were more physical.
In the opening minutes Cleveland center Shaquille O'Neal, who had 11 points and seven rebounds, knocked Pau Gasol to the floor. After that play, the Lakers frontcourt seemingly was never the same.
"He definitely had a presence in the game," Jackson said of O'Neal. "I do know that he was a factor on Kobe."