At home, LeBron James held the Lakers perfectly on the street.
James scored one goal in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 of his 46 points with a variety of dazzling punches and games that only he seems to be making. This led Los Angeles to a 115-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.
James’ first game in Ohio in more than two years couldn’t have gone better.
“Home cooking,” said James, who had had a meal from his mother, Gloria. “It felt good to be back in my port.”
Anthony Davis added 17 points as the defending NBA champions improved to 10-0 away. The win for Los Angeles came on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the tragic death of Laker legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash.
James’ outburst on the fourth was reminiscent of something Bryant could do as well, and he was fueled when he tried to silence a member of Cleveland’s front office group on the socially distant front row across from Cavs Bank.
When James ran short with a 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter, the unidentified Cavs manager celebrated.
“I felt that he was a little too excited to see me miss me,” James said playfully. “I knew I had another quarter and the fourth quarter is my favorite. It is good for him that I come here only once. “
In the final 12 minutes, James took 9 out of 10 shots and posed to keep his form after lowering a 34-foot-3 hand just before the 24-second clock ran out to beat the Lakers at 103- 98 in the lead.
James followed suit with a step back 3 and then emptied a fadeaway turn-around sweater in the corner before shaking his head at Cleveland’s bench.
“When he plays like that, it’s fun to watch,” said Davis. “When he got what 19, 17 in the first? It’s over … He was not missed. He was all over the floor. “
Andre Drummond scored 25 and added 17 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who were blown out of 38 in Boston on Sunday. Cedi Osman added 20 points and Collin Sexton 17 for the Cavs.
Coach JB Bickerstaff said before the game that he wanted his team to be “scrapped,” and that’s exactly what the Cavs did – until James took over the way he did in Cleveland for eleven seasons.
“When a man does what he’s done he’s hard to deal with,” said Bickerstaff. “We all saw that.”
While James was still a homecoming, he felt very different.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were only 2,000 fans at the 18,000-seat Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse known as the Quicken Loans Arena when James led the Cavs to the 2016 NBA championship and a 52-year title drought in Cleveland finished.
The sparse crowd greeted him warmly and the building was littered with fans wearing James’ purple and gold LA jersey.
It was only James’ second trip back to Cleveland since leaving the Cavs as a free agent for the second time after the 2018 season. Last year’s game was canceled due to the pandemic.
After dusting his pre-game chalk throw, a ritual he began with the Cavs and only breaks out on special occasions these days, James dropped four 3-pointers and scored 17 points in the first quarter.
On Tuesday, the Lakers family will have painful memories awakened by the loss of Bryant, whose death rocked their organization, the NBA and the sports world. Bryant, 41, died while traveling with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna at one of their basketball games.
Knowing that Bryant’s anniversary will be emotional for everyone, Lakers coach Frank Vogel gives his players the day off so they can better cope with their grief and honor their late teammate Bryant “as they see fit”.
“It’s not a day’s reminder like his birthday,” said Vogel. “It’s more like a dark day.”
The Lakers spend the night in Cleveland before flying to Philadelphia – Bryant’s hometown – on Tuesday. You play against the 76ers on Wednesday.
Bickerstaff first met Bryant at summer camp when they were in high school.
When Bickerstaff walked onto the pitch, he noticed that none of his teammates had played defensively against Bryant and said, “I’ll take him.”
Bickerstaff claimed he stood his ground that day and his admiration for Bryant grew over the years to come.
“He changed the game for the next generation,” said Bickerstaff. “His will to win was second to none. His dedication to his craft was second to none. “
Lakers: C Marc Gasol had three fouls in the first 3:02. … James will one day have his # 23 jersey retired in Cleveland and Miami and Los Angeles. He is the Cavs’ career leader in played games, points, rebounds, assists, steals, 3-pointers, free throws, and more.
Cavaliers: The Cavs were missing striker Larry Nance Jr., who sprained his right wrist against the Celtics. Nance leads the league with 2.3 steals per game. … F Kevin Love (calf) and G Matthew Dellavedova (concussion) are the only players on Cleveland’s squad with James from the 16-man team and both missed the game with injuries.
Lakers: When you visited Philadelphia a year ago, the night before Bryant died, James passed the Black Mamba on the career list.
Cavaliers: Hosted the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. The Cavs hit the butts on December 26th in overtime.