Kobe Bryant will make his last trip to Ohio when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at the Quicken Loans Arena. Although Kobe and Lebron James have been compared throughout James’ career, Kobe denies that there is any rivalry between the two and claims that they are part of two different generations.
The Cavs are currently the best team in the Eastern Conference and are poised to make a championship run after recently firing their head coach, David Blatt, and replacing him with former Laker, Tyronn Lue. Lue is a former teammate of Kobe, and they won back-to-back championships together in the early 2000s. The Lakers are coming off of two straight losses and are looking to end the losing streak before the All-Star break.
The Cavs jumped to a quick 11-4 lead after the Lakers failed to convert on some several open shots including a missed dunk my Julius Randle. Hibbert finally ended the Cavs 9-0 run with a mini hook shot in the paint off of Jordan Clarkson’s assist, but the Cavs continued to score easily in transition and the Lakers trailed 6-18 with 6:45 to play in the first quarter. Kobe drained a three-pointer from the right wing and after a Lakers defensive stop, Randle burst down the floor for a coast-to-coast dunk in transition to cut the Lakers deficit down to 12 points with 3:34 left in the first quarter. Lebron James had his way with the Lakers early with eight points and five assists, so Metta World Peace checked in for the first time in a month to try to slow him down. The Lakers started the game slow and trailed the Cavs 25-35 at the end of the first quarter.
D’Angelo scored his first points a few minutes into the second quarter with back-to-back three-pointers and the Lakers only trailed by five points with 9:07 left in the half. Midway through the quarter, Kyrie Irving drove past Metta World Peace to extend the Cavs lead back to 10 after the Lakers had cut it down to five. The Lakers scored four straight points, but Irving answered their short run with a three-pointer followed by a layup by Lebron in transition. Clarkson set up Brandon Bass off of the pick-and-roll, who then finished at the rim, plus the foul, and the Lakers trailed 43-51 with 2:48 left in the half. The Lakers used poor clock management at the end of the quarter; when they should have held on to the ball for the last shot, Bass went one-on-three for a wild missed layup and Lebron capitalized with a three-pointer to end the half. At halftime, the Lakers trailed 47-64.
Kevin Love left the game in the final minutes of the first half and will not return for the Cavs, so Anderson Varejao started the second half in his place. With the Lakers down 16, Jordan Clarkson drove past Varejao and finished with a strong layup plus the foul. Irving nailed a second-chance jumper from beyond the arc to give him 23 points in the game, and the Lakers did not have an answer for him. The Cavs continued to pound the offensive glass and Lebron pushed the lead to 20 points midway through the third quarter. D’Angelo Russell operated in the post and drew the foul on Irving, who went to the bench with his fourth foul with four minutes remaining in the third. Russell then exited the game momentarily after Lebron’s misfired bounce pass hit him directly in the groin, but he would return to the game before the end of the quarter. Lebron and Irving combined for 53 points through three quarters, and the Lakers trailed 74-93 at the end of the third quarter.
Lou Williams scored six straight points and assisted a Tarik Black dunk to start the fourth quarter and the Lakers cut their deficit to 13 points with 10:14 remaining in the game. The Cavs responded to the Lakers run with strong defense and efficient offense to put them back up by 18 points. Clarkson drained two free throws and then made a three-pointer midway through the fourth, and the Lakers trailed 91-104. Kobe followed up Clarkson’s scoring spurt with a four-point play to cut the Cavs lead to just nine points with 5:36 remaining in the game. The Cavs pushed their lead back up to 11, but Irving fouled Kobe on a three-point attempt; Kobe made all three free throws and the Lakers trailed by eight with 3:34 left in the game as the Kobe chants rained down from Quicken Loans Arena. J.R. Smith made a jumper from beyond the arc and then Irving drilled another jumper to give the Cavs a 13 point lead with just under three minutes remaining in the game. The Lakers intentionally fouled the Cavs so Kobe could exit the game to a standing ovation from the Cleveland fans and that is all she wrote. Final score: Lakers 111 Cavaliers 120.