For a while there, it looked like the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to run their home winning streak to 24 games to start the season. The Cavs led by 2 points after the first 12 minutes of the game, and had increased that lead to a comfortable 10 points by halftime. But the 2nd half was a completely different story. The Lakers outscored the Cavs 50-30 in the 2nd half and cruised to a 101-91 win at the Quicken Loans Arena – handing the Cavs their first loss at home all season long.
While everyone expected Lebron and Kobe to duke it out all night long, it was Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Zydrunas Ilgauskas who led the charge. Kobe battled the flu pre-game and needed an IV at halftime to even keep playing after the break. He ended up playing “only” 35 minutes and scoring “only” 19 points on 8 of 17 shooting. Lebron played 40 minutes and had an awful shooting night – 16 points on 5 of 20 shooting from the floor. Lebron did manage to grab 8 rebounds and dish out 12 assists though.
But the real star of the game was Lamar Odom. Odom scored a game-high 28 points on 13 of 19 shooting. He also grabbed 17 rebounds – 7 of which were offensive rebounds, giving the Lakers countless 2nd chance opportunities which helped break the game open in the 2nd half. Pau Gasol played a game-high 44 minutes – he scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 6 assists. For the Cavs, Ilgauskas turned in a team-high 22 points and 9 rebounds – 5 of which were offensive rebounds.
At 41-9, the Lakers now have the best record in the NBA. They just finished an undefeated 7-game road trip and get to have an easy home return against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night at the Staples Center. The Cleveland Cavaliers have a percentage points lead over the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs are 39-10, but have 4 games in hand against the Celtics who sit at 42-11. It should be a fun race in the East down the stretch.
Well it definitely lived up to the hype. For the 2nd time this NBA season, the Lakers ended a double-digit Celtics winning streak, this time on the Celtics own home court in Boston. It was a back and forth game all night long, with the Lakers leading by 3 points after the 1st quarter and the Celtics leading by 1 and 4 points, respectively, after the 2nd and 3rd quarters. In the end, it took 2 free throws by Lamar Odom and 2 missed shots by Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in order for the Lakers to preserve the win.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. He also hit three 3-point shots in the final quarter to help the Lakers tie the game. Pau Gasol also stepped up the plate in a big way – Gasol scored 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Lamar Odom scored 20 points and had 6 rebounds, while Derek Fisher also chipped in 13 points, 5 assists and 3 steals.
For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo just missed a triple-double in one of his best performances of the year – 16 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds. Ray Allen led the Celtics with 22 points. The Celtics dynamic duo – Paul Pierce (21 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists) and Kevin Garnett (16 points and 6 rebounds in only 33 minutes) had efficient nights, but they weren’t enough to lift the Celtics over the Lakers.
The Lakers (40-9) are now 5-0 on their current road trip and now have a percentage points lead over the Celtics (41-10) for the best record in the NBA. The Celtics have a 1/2 game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and take on the New York Knicks tonight at Madison Square Garden. Will a Celtic player be able to score 50 points tonight to make it 3 games in a row in which a Knicks’ opponent scores 50 points? Stay tuned.
Kobe, Kobe, Kobe. Kobe Bryant set the points record at the current Madison Square Garden with his 61-point effort against the Knicks on Monday night. The previous record was held by the Knicks own Bernard King when he scored 60 points on Christmas Day almost 25 years ago in 1984. The previous opponent player’s high score was Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls who knocked down 55 points in one of his classic games at the Garden.
Kobe scored 61 points and dished out 3 assists, but he had no rebounds. He was 19 of 31 from the field, and he also hit all 20 of his free throws. It was the highest scoring game by any player in the NBA this season. It was Kobe’s 5th 40-point game against the Knicks at the Garden and it was his 24th 50-point game in his career.
As for the game and some other “good” performances. The Lakers’ Pau Gasol scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. The Knicks’ David Lee turned in another great night – 22 points and 12 rebounds. Al Harrington led the Knicks with 24 points, while Wilson Chandler chipped in 20 points off the bench.
The Lakers are now 38-9. With the .809 winning percentage, the Lakers trail only the Boston Celtics by percentage points – 40-9, .816 winning percentage.
Don’t look now, but the New York Knicks are making a run at the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Knicks have won 8 of their last 11 games and have had 2 3-game winning streaks in that mix. With a win over the Lakers at the Garden tonight, the Knicks could even extend the current 3-game winning streak to a season-high 4-game winning streak. Scoring has been the key for the Knicks during the last 11 games. The Knicks have scored over 100 points in each of the 8 wins, but they have scored under 100 points in 2 of the 3 losses. The only loss was at Phoenix, when the Suns outraced the Knicks to a 116-110 win.
On Saturday night, the Knicks knocked off the Pacers 122-113. The Knicks are only 4 games under .500 right now, and trail the Milwaukee Bucks by only a 1/2 game in the race for the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. In fact, they are only 4 games behind the Detroit Pistons and Miami Heat who are tied for the 5th and 6th seeds in the Eastern Conference. After you get past the Top 3 – Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic – the East is pretty weak, so anything is possible.
Two lesser know players are leading the Knicks of late. David Lee leads the team in scoring (15.9), rebounding (11.7) and field goal percentage (56.8). While Chris Duhon leads the Knicks in 4 other categories – assists (8.0), free throw percentage (86.8), 3-point percentage (41.7) and steals (1.1).
The Knicks will be tested at home this week. Tonight they take on the West’s best team – Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Wednesday night they face Lebron James and the Cavaliers and Friday night they face Paul Pierce and the Celtics. If the Knicks can somehow muster 1 win against the top 3 teams in the NBA, they should consider that a “moral victory”. Stay tuned…
The battle of the NBA’s 2 top teams lived up to the hype for the first 24 minutes of the game. But then the Lakers defense stepped up in the 2nd half to the delight of the home crowd at the Staples Center and the Lakers cruised to a 105-88 victory. After trailing by 1 point at halftime, the Lakers outscored the Cavs 26-16 in the 3rd quarter and 30-22 in the 4th quarter to win by 17 points.
Kobe Bryant – 20 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds – and Pau Gasol – 22 points and 12 rebounds – each had double-doubles to pace the Lakers. Andrew Bynum also had a solid night with 14 points and 6 rebounds, while Lamar Odom chipped in 8 points and 10 rebounds in a reserve role off the bench.
Lebron James led the way for the Cavs with 23 points, 4 assists and 9 rebounds, but he also had 6 turnovers. Mo Williams had 16 points, 5 assists and 6 rebounds, but committed 5 turnovers. Center Anderson Varejao put forth a solid effort once again – 10 points and 12 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Cavs bench did not put forth a good enough effort to keep the Cavs in the game on the road.
The Lakers moved to 32-8 and still have the best record in the Western Conference. The Orlando Magic actually moved ahead of both the Lakers and Cavs for the best record in the NBA at 33-8. The Cavs trail the Magic by 1 game in the Eastern Conference with a 31-8 record.
The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in a rematch of the 2007-8 NBA Finals won by the Celtics. Kobe Bryant led all players with an all-around great performance at the Staples Center – 29 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Pau Gasol also poured in 20 points to help the Lakers to victory. The Celtics top players all had good games, but the bench was disappointing. Paul Pierce had 20 points and 10 rebounds. KG had 22 points and 9 rebounds. Ray Allen chipped in 14 points, while Rajon Rondo dished out 12 assists.
The Lakers improved to 24-5, while the Celtics dropped just their 3rd game of the season.
It’s still early in the young 2008-9 NBA season, but 3 teams have emerged as the cream of the crop so far:
Boston Celtics – the 2007-8 defending champs – it doesn’t look like anyone has gotten complacent in Beantown. The Celtics are 22-2 so far, going 13-1 at home and 9-1 on the road. The Celtics are still led by Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. The Celtics play tenacious “D”, which they will need on a west-coast road trip later this month – where they will play at the Lakers and at upstart Portland. The Celtics also have a tough game on the road at the surprising Hawks.
Los Angeles Lakers – lost to the Celtics in 5 games in the 2007-8 NBA Finals. The Lakers are 19-3 with a 12-1 home record. The Lakers are also led by a trio of elite players – Kobe Bryant, Pao Gasol and Andrew Bynum. With only 7 games left in December, the Lakers only have 2 tough contests – at New Orleans where the Hornets are starting to regain their amazing 2007-8 form and at home against the Celtics.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Lebron, Lebron, Lebron. He makes everyone on that team so much better. The Cavs are 20-4 overall and a perfect 13-0 at home. The Cavs’ 7 remaining December games are fairly easy – with 3 potential stumbling blocks along the way. Home against the Rockets and a home and home series against the Heat to end the month where Dwayne Wade could pull off an upset all by himself.
Here’s to enjoying watching these 3 top teams the rest of the way – get ready for another Celtics – Lakers NBA Finals…