The Los Angeles Lakers were having a rare off-day - and even if there is no team in the NBA with a better record, even if they have a comfortable lead in the Western Conference, even if it was Christmas Day, their fans were not about to let them off lightly. They were booed, they were jeered and foam fingers and water bottles were tossed on to the court from the stands as the uninspiring and unexciting Lakers suffered a thorough 102-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Staples Center.
The Cleveland Cavaliers crushed the Los Angeles Lakers 102-87 in yesterday's Christmas Day showdown between the NBA's top two teams. Mo Williams scored 28 points and LeBron James 26 for the Cavaliers while Kobe Bryant managed 35 for the Western Conference leading Lakers, who had won each of their past 11 games at home. Cleveland built a 19-point second-quarter advantage and remained in control throughout, shooting a hot 54.3 per cent from the floor and holding the Lakers to 36.5. The reserve Jamario Moon added 13 points on six of seven shooting and center Shaquille O'Neal had 11 points and seven rebounds for the Cavaliers, who lead the Central Division. Ron Artest (13) and Pau Gasol (11) were the only other Lakers apart from Bryant to reach double figures as the team's disgruntled fans vented their frustration by throwing debris on the court.
The game was delayed, and more foam fingers were tossed from the stands after another foul was called with 3:45 to play. Pau Gasol sat on the bench with a perplexed look, his hand under his chin, while Andrew Bynum stared off into the distance. On a day the Boston Celtics won in Orlando without Paul Pierce, the Lakers floundered at home with no excuses at their disposal. They now share the NBA's best record with Boston, each team at 23-5.
Maybe the Lakers would have been more motivated if they pretended they were playing Boston, their Christmas Day opponents a year ago in an intense grudge game won by LA. Bryant had 35 points against Cleveland but was a wild 11-for-32 shooting. Gasol had 11 points on four-for-11 shooting and the Lakers shot 36.5 per cent as a team. Defensively, they were a mess. The Cleveland point guard Mo Williams had 28 points, their offensive star LeBron James had 26 points and nine assists, and the Cavaliers (23-8) shot 54.3 per cent from the field, the best shooting percentage against the Lakers this season.
Bynum had another subpar effort, scoring four points on two-for-five shooting, leading someone to ask Bryant if the Lakers' big men got overlooked in the post. "I just think they got outworked," Bryant said, voicing rare public criticism of his teammates. * Los Angeles Times