A little more than a month after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers by 55 points, the Cavaliers got their revenge Wednesday, winning 104-99 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“For us to come out and not be prepared against the defending world champions and play like we were scared shouldn’t happen,” Cleveland forward Antawn Jamison said of a 112-57 loss on Jan. 11. “The only time you should beat somebody by 50 points is on a video game. That night, it felt like we were in one.”
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On this night, it looked like the Cavs (10-46) simply wanted it more than the Lakers (38-19), who dropped their third straight as they concluded a seven-game road trip.
In guaranteeing they won’t match the nine-win 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers for the worst record in league history — and winning for the second time in their last three games — the Cavs got a monster night from point guard Ramon Sessions, who had 32 points and eight assists.
Sessions made nine of 16 shots, including his first 3-pointer of the season, and 13 of 14 free throws. He played 36 minutes off the bench after Mo Williams picked up two quick fouls, tweaked his right ankle and went to the bench for good less than four minutes into the game.
“They beat us by 50 the last time, so they probably thought they were going to come out and run by us,” Sessions said. “We came out and played hard.”
The Cavs also got 19 points and 10 rebounds from Jamison; 18 points, nine assists and excellent defense from Anthony Parker; and 13 points and 15 boards from J.J. Hickson.
The Lakers got 30 points and 20 rebounds from Pau Gasol, who became the first player to have a 30-20 game against the Cavs since Jermaine O’Neal on April 18, 2001; 19 points from Derek Fisher; and 15 points off the bench from former Cav Shannon Brown.
Much more pivotal was what the disinterested-looking Lakers didn’t get. Hounded by Parker, Jamario Moon or Christian Eyenga, Kobe Bryant had 17 points on 8-for-24 shooting and didn’t attempt a free throw.
Andrew Bynum, who was 2-for-12 from the field, and Ron Artest, who had one point and no rebounds in 18 minutes, were even worse.
“I think they took their All-Star break before the game,” Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said. “They left before this game started.”
The Cavs battled from the beginning, then held on for dear life at the end.
Cleveland led 72-63 late in the third period, but the Lakers went on an 8-0 run, punctuated by a Bryant 3-pointer, to get within one with 44.9 seconds left in the quarter.
Just when it looked like the Cavs were losing all their momentum, Eyenga went baseline and threw down a monster slam over Gasol to put Cleveland up three heading into the fourth period.
“It was crazy,” Hickson said. “That’s one of the best dunks I’ve seen this year.”
The Lakers managed to tie the game at 82 on a 3-pointer by Fisher with 6:16 to go, but the Cavs answered with seven straight points.
Cleveland appeared to have the game wrapped up when Hickson converted a three-point play to make it 96-84 with 2:27 left, but the Lakers stormed back to get within 99-97 with 24.9 seconds to go.
Los Angeles was still within four when Bryant missed a 3-pointer and Moon rebounded with 5.7 seconds left, assuring the Cavs of their most impressive victory since a season-opening win over Boston.
“We harped on the fact we embarrassed ourselves as a basketball team,” Cleveland coach Byron Scott said of the first meeting with the Lakers. “We allowed them to manhandle us.”
Not this time. That will allow Scott, an Inglewood, Calif., native and former Laker who admits to still bleeding “a little purple and gold,” to feel good over All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles.
“When I get back home to L.A., especially (today), I’m going to walk around with my chest puffed out,” he said.
The Cavs, meanwhile, will be able to enjoy their victory, as they don’t play until Wednesday against Houston.
“Of course it was embarrassing,” Hickson said of the previous Lakers game. “We just came out today and our mind-set was different than the last time we played them. We showed up.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.