Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in town to take on Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for the final time this season. This will be Kobe and Lebron’s final duel, and although they never met in the finals, their respective fans love to debate who the better player is.
The Cavs are currently the best team in the Eastern Conference and are looking to make another trip to the NBA Finals this season. Meanwhile, the Lakers have the second-worst record in the NBA, but the young core of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell has been steadily improving as the season comes to a close. Kobe Bryant is riding off into the sunset of his storied NBA career, and the young Lakers core have provided plenty of hope for a bright future in Los Angeles.
The Lakers took an early 4-2 lead after Roy Hibbert made a lefty hook that was followed by a midrange pull up jumper from Kobe Bryant. After the Cavs scored seven unanswered points, Julius Randle brought down the house after he drove down the lane for the left handed slam in traffic. D’Angelo Russell had five points and Kobe had six points of his own on 3-4 shooting, as the Lakers trailed 19-15 halfway through the first quarter. Channing Frye kept the Cavs ahead in the first quarter with outstanding three-point shooting, hitting all three of his attempts. Russell continued his hot shooting, making a corner three over Timofey Mozgov to give him eight points in the quarter. Marcelo Huertas was a catalyst off of the bench, scoring nine points in just four minutes. Despite trailing by nine points at one juncture, the Lakers trailed 33-31 at the end of the first.
Mehta World Peace had a positive impact on the defensive end as usual, but Kyrie Irving shook him and made a corner three to extend the Cavs’ lead to six points. Huertas continued to show his worth on the basketball court, assisting a Brandon Bass layup and the making a pull up shot in transition to give him a career-high 11 points early in the second quarter. Julius Randle gave the Lakers the lead after scoring four straight points to cap off a 9-0 Lakers run. The Cavs answered the Lakers run with a 6-0 spurt of their own after Frye drilled another three-pointer. Julius Randle kept the Lakers in the game with his 10 points and six boards, but the Lakers still trailed by six with three minutes remaining in the half. Kobe Bryant continued to light it up from the field with back-to-back fadeaway jumpers to give him 12 points in the first half. Lebron drove past Kobe for a thunderous jam, but Kobe called for the ball and nailed a three-pointer in return. At the end of the first half Kobe outscored Lebron 15-13, but the Lakers trailed 64-55.
Kobe Bryant came out of the locker room just as hot as he was when he entered it, scoring five straight points to narrow the Lakers deficit to seven points. Channing Frye also came out of the locker room red hot, knocking down another three to give him 19 points in the game. Kobe Bryant had 22 points midway through the third quarter, but the Lakers still trailed by 11 points after Randle knocked down two free throws. Russell knocked down back-to-back three pointers to give him 16 points in the game and narrowed the gap to seven points. With 3:05 remaining in the third quarter, Matthew Dellavedova made a triple to give the Cavs a 14-point lead, their largest of the game. The Lakers responded with a 4-0 spurt, but the Cavs were clearly in control of the game towards the end of the third quarter. Through three quarters the Lakers shot a better field goal percentage than the Cavs, but still trailed 95-82 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Cavs extended their lead to 17 points just three minutes into the fourth quarter and the game seemed to be getting out of hand. With the Lakers down big, Kobe Bryant checked back into the game with 7:37 left in regulation. The Lakers had trouble narrowing the gap, as Lebron went to the free throw line to give the Cavs a 17-point lead with five minutes to go in the ballgame. Russell froze Mozgov with the hesitation and drove past him for a contested left handed layup, giving him 22 points to go along with his four assists in the game. Lebron bullied Russell in the lane, knocking him down and converting the layup, but Kobe retaliated with a three-pointer to give him 26 points in the game. With the Lakers down by 15 points with just two minutes to play, Kobe Bryant headed to the bench and Staples Center chanted his name and gave him a standing ovation. The Lakers made it an entertaining game, but the Cavs prevailed in the end.
Final Score: Lakers 108 Cavaliers 120