Kobe Bryant dunked on LeBron James on a breakaway in the opening minutes of the third quarter. He didn’t take anything for granted and James didn’t let him have a free one. Moments later, Bryant drilled a 3-pointer for his 30th point. Derrick Rose was the fastest player on the court when Westbrook wasn’t out there at the same time. Incredible displays of fast-twitch muscle fibers whenever they had the ball in their hands. This looked very much Bryant’s game, however. He scored 34 points after three quarters. The Celtics’ foursome and the Miami Heat’s trio were afterthoughts going into the fourth.
Russell Westbrook’s soaring dunk to cap a fast break made it 45-37 early in the second. Westbrook and Kevin Love give the West a UCLA flavor. West coach Gregg Popovich called a timeout after LeBron James dribbled through the paint and flipped the ball into the basket to cut it to 49-43. This must be serious. Kobe Bryant guarded James late in the half. Bryant dunked, then Chris Paul (a future Lakers point guard?) stole the inbounds pass, drove and lobbed a pass to Kevin Durant for a dunk and a 70-58 lead for the West. East coach Doc Rivers called a timeout with 1:05 left in the half. This must really be serious. Bryant scored 21 points in the opening half, taking the early lead for MVP honors.
There were plenty of cheers for Kobe Bryant during the opening quarter tonight at Staples Center, especially after he unleashed a a driving reverse dunk from along baseline. Blake Griffin replaced Bryant late in the quarter, a nice touch from West coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Griffin scored his first basket on a lob from Utah’s Deron Williams, which made it 33-25 in final minute of the opening quarter. There were plenty of boos for the Celtics foursome upon entering midway through, especially Paul Pierce. This is Los Angeles, after all. Bryant led all scorers with 11 points.
Lenny Kravitz playing his stuff. Sounds good. Stevie Wonder just walked by my seat. Big cheers for Blake Griffin. Bigger cheers for Kobe Bryant. Some boos for Inglewood native Paul Pierce. Josh Groban sings the U.S. anthem. Nice. Griffin, Bryant and Pau Gasol welcome the fans to the game, with Gasol saying a few words in Spanish.
CLEVELAND — Well, wasn’t that nice of the Lakers? Their loss to Cleveland made it possible for the Cavaliers to avoid matching the Philadelphia 76ers’ immortal total of nine victories in a season. Cleveland won its 10th in its 56th game. The Lakers (38-19) made sure it happened by shooting poorly and playing defense as if they were nailed to the floor. Pau Gasol scored 30 points and grabbed a season-high tying 20 rebounds. Otherwise it was another game that exposed the Lakers for their lackluster effort and efficiency. Ramon Sessions led Cleveland with a season-high 32 points.
CLEVELAND — The Lakers were halfway to their most embarrassing loss of the season tonight in the final game of their seven-game trip. Pau Gasol scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but Andrew Bynum scored two points on 0-for-7 shooting. Kobe Bryant scored six points on 3-for-8 shooting. Ramon Sessions scored 16 for Cleveland. The Lakers defeated the Cavaliers by 55 points when they played Jan. 11 at Staples Center.
CLEVELAND — If you’re looking for a hint as to how Kobe Bryant and the Lakers might respond in tonight’s game against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers after loses Monday to the Charlotte Bobcats and Sunday to the Orlando Magic, take a hint from Bryant’s pregame mood. “(Ticked),” he said when asked about his emotions. “Next question.” He went on to say the Lakers’ goal was to “Take care of business and go ahead and win the game.”
CLEVELAND — No practice today. Coach Phil Jackson called off today’s scheduled practice after the team arrived from Charlotte and made it a voluntary workout. Reporters weren’t invited and probably wouldn’t have shown up to watch the rookies and the backups play pick-up games. Andrew Bynum was spotted in the food court buying pretzels. But that’s about it for highlights one day after the Lakers’ lost by 20 points to Charlotte.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Lakers suffered their worst loss of the season tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats, one of only two teams they have losing records against in their history. The Boston Celtics are the other, which is understandable. But the Bobcats? Charlotte has won eight of 13 games against the Lakers, including eight of 11 while Phil Jackson has coached the team. This loss might have had more to do with the schedule more than anything else. The Lakers played for the fourth time in five days. Kobe Bryant was ill and didn’t participate in the morning shootaround. He scored 20 points on 8-for-20 shooting. Gerald Wallace had 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting for the Bobcats. After winning the first four games on their seven-game trip, the Lakers have dropped two in a row. Their final stop is in Cleveland on Wednesday night.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Lakers started out fine then went into one of their funks in the second quarter tonight against the Charlotte Bobcats. They led by scores of 8-2 and 10-4 in the opening minutes, but couldn’t sustain their momentum. Meanwhile, the Bobcats stuck around and gained confidence and soon enough they led by as many as 11 points. Kobe Bryant did not attend the morning shootaround because of an illness. He scored nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. Pau Gasol had 12 points and seven rebounds in the half.