CLEVELAND — It was billed as a showdown between the two best teams in the NBA and the two best basketball players in the world.
Instead, it turned into a personal showcase for Lakers power forward Lamar Odom.
Odom outclassed Los Angeles teammate Kobe Bryant and outplayed Cavaliers superstar LeBron James in front of a national television audience Sunday, rallying the Lakers to a 101-91 win at Quicken Loans Arena.
The enigmatic Odom had a season-best 28 points and a career-high-tying 17 rebounds as Los Angeles overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half and ended Cleveland’s team-record home winning streak at 23 games.
“It was a great game by Lamar, and I thought he was the difference,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. “He was very active on the weak side, he did a terrific job driving the basketball, and we let him get to the rim. He was a handful and he impacted the game on both ends of the floor.”
Odom’s outburst featured
17 points and 12 boards after halftime, when the Lakers stormed back to outscore their hosts 50-30. Los Angeles guard Jordan Farmer accurately called the performance “incredible,” while forward Luke Walton rated it as “awesome.”
The victory kept the Lakers (41-9) atop the NBA standings and allowed them to sweep the season series from Eastern Conference leader Cleveland (39-10), which retained the second-best record in the league.
It played out in surprising fashion, though, as Bryant (19 points, two assists) was hampered by the flu and James (16 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists) made just five of 20 field-goal attempts and never truly got rolling.
Odom, meanwhile, turned into the marquee player on the court after the Cavaliers extended their lead to 63-51 on the opening shot of the second half. The nine-year veteran amassed 15 points and 10 rebounds over the rest of the third quarter, putting the Lakers up 82-77 at its conclusion.
“That’s just the will to win,” said Odom, whose personal 7-0 run gave Los Angeles the lead for good at 73-69. “I told myself with Kobe not feeling well that the first time I touched the ball, I was going to take it to the hole and open the basket up for myself.
“I was able to catch the ball in scoring position tonight, stay focused and deliver.”
The Lakers pushed their advantage to 90-80 midway through the fourth, but James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas briefly gave the home fans hope by scoring nine quick points. Their spurt cut the deficit to 93-89 with 3:06 left.
Bryant, though, answered with the most important shot of the game. He isolated James one-on-one on the wing, ran the shot clock down, then lofted a 13-foot rainmaker that found nothing but net.
The hoop crushed the spirits of the Cavaliers, who made only one more hoop the rest of the way, and stunned the home crowd, which hadn’t seen the wine and gold lose since April 16, 2008.
“I missed a lot of easy looks that I usually make today,” said James, who missed seven straight shots at one point. “You try to keep attacking, but I just couldn’t make layups.
“But give the Lakers credit for staying with their game plan. They kept us out on the perimeter the whole game and kept us out of the paint in the second half when we didn’t knock down many shots.”
Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson agreed with that assessment, saying: “I’m not going to credit our defense in the second half. They had shots, they just didn’t make them. We did.”
Ilgauskas scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Cleveland, which shot an abysmal 28.2 percent in the second half. Mo Williams added 19 points — just two in the final two quarters — and Wally Szczerbiak chipped in 16 off the bench.
The Cavaliers also lost starting shooting guard Sasha Pavlovic to a sprained right ankle at the end of the first quarter, which forced Szczerbiak to see time in the backcourt and at both forward spots.
The Lakers got 18 points and 12 boards from center Pau Gasol, who joined Odom in dominating the paint, and 13 from Derek Fisher. They also established themselves as the team to beat in the NBA by completing their 6-0 road trip with victories in Boston and Cleveland.
“We’re playing for perfection, to be perfect,” Odom said. “In order to do that, it takes a lot of energy, focus, commitment to winning basketball games and doing whatever it takes.
“We got production from everybody on the court today and that’s important, especially for the long haul.”
Contact Brian Dulik at (330) 721-4059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lakers 101, Cavaliers 91
L.A. LAKERS (101): Walton 3-6 0-0 7, Odom 13-19 2-3 28, Gasol 6-15 6-8 18, Fisher 5-9 1-2 13, Bryant 8-17 3-3 19, Ariza 3-7 0-0 6, Farmar 1-7 0-0 2, Vujacic 2-4 0-0 4, Powell 2-4 0-0 4, Mihm 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 43-88 12-16 101.
CLEVELAND (91): James 5-20 4-8 16, Wallace 1-4 0-0 2, Ilgauskas 9-16 4-6 22, Williams 7-19 2-2 19, Pavlovic 2-2 0-0 5, Varejao 2-6 2-2 6, Gibson 2-6 0-1 5, Szczerbiak 6-11 0-0 16, Hickson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 34-87 12-19 91.
L.A. Lakers 30 21 31 19 — 101
Cleveland 32 29 16 14 — 91
3-Point Goals—L.A. Lakers 3-20 (Fisher 2-6, Walton 1-2, Odom 0-1, Ariza 0-2, Vujacic 0-2, Bryant 0-2, Farmar 0-5), Cleveland 11-23 (Szczerbiak 4-5, Williams 3-4, James 2-8, Pavlovic 1-1, Gibson 1-5). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—L.A. Lakers 56 (Odom 17), Cleveland 53 (Ilgauskas, Varejao 9). Assists—L.A. Lakers 25 (Gasol 6), Cleveland 22 (James 12). Total Fouls—L.A. Lakers 16, Cleveland 21. A—20,562 (20,562).