It's not like they didn't have their chances.
Heck, they were winning by double digits (61-51) at the intermission.
But thanks to a collapse in the second half - particularly a third quarter in which they were outgunned by a 31-16 mark - the Cavs dropped their first home game this season, losing 101-91 to the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday at Quicken Loans Arena. It marked only the third time this season that the Cavs surrendered 100 or more points to an opponent at home. (On the bright side, all Lakers fans in attendance received free chalupas.)
The loss ended the Cavs' four-game win streak and dropped their record on the season to 39-10. (Thanks to a loss by the Celtics earlier in the day, the Cavs still have the best record in the Eastern Conference.)
Guess what? LeBron James did not lead the Cavs in scoring. (When you've typed the words "LeBron James led the Cavs with ..." more times than you can count, these things matter.) That honor goes to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who posted 22 points. (James, for his part, added 16, as did Wally Expiring Contract.)
Guess what, part II? Kobe Bryant did not lead the Lakers. (Raise your hands, all of you who would have bet money that neither James nor Bryant would lead their respective teams.) Lamar Odom's 28 points and 17 rebounds led everybody in both categories. Bryant, who suffered from "flu-like symptoms" (which we previously discovered is different from the flu itself), added 19.
It's the NBA. Where choking on national TV happens.
WHAT I LIKED ABOUT THE GAME:
Don't Blame Him: Ilgauskas, who was on the sidelines when the Cavs faced the Lakers in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago, had one of his stronger games of the season: 22 points and nine rebounds. Perhaps more importantly, he connected on nine of the 16 shots he took, with most of those being the 18 to 20-foot jumper variety (he also made a couple of tough turnaround jumpers).
It Wouldn't Get Any Better: Just before the end of the first half, with the Cavs leading by eight and the Lakers with the ball, Mo Williams stripped the ball from Kobe as the Lakers' star elevated for a jump shot. Williams took the ball to the other end for an uncontested layup, giving the Cavs their ten-point halftime margin.
Okay, It Did Get A Little Better: That ten-point lead was not the Cavs' biggest lead of the game. That came just a few seconds into the third quarter, when Wally Szczerbiak drilled a jumper to stake the Cavs to a 63-51 lead.
Speaking Of The Expiring Contract: Szczerbiak provided a real spark off the bench, pouring in 16 points and providing some outside firepower (he made all but one of the five three-pointers he attempted). Increasingly, he is the one bench player who the Cavs can rely on to provide outside shooting.
And that allows us to segue into...
The Boobie Meter: Today, the Boobie Meter - the favorite feature of all male and alternatively-lifestyled female fans of GBS - makes me realize that I need an additional column category beyond the "what I liked" and "what I didn't like" sections. Something that indicates what I sort of liked about the game, or what I noticed but didn't much care about. Let's try this:
And that's where the performance of the Cavs' Daniel "Boobie" Gibson falls. Not great, not awful, just ... meh. Gibson scored five points in 24 minutes of action and had a couple of alert plays (knocking the ball away to prevent what would have been a sure layup in the second quarter, calling a timeout after getting the ball while on the ground).
With an eye towards the ‘70s-vintage, retro uniforms that the Cavs wore yesterday, I am ranking Gibson's performance a Jane Fonda.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE ABOUT THE GAME:
LeClang: Yes, LeBron did almost have another triple-double (16 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds; no word yet on whether the official scorer plans to remove one of those rebounds two days from now, as was the case with the New York game last week). That said, he was awful, at least by Jamesian standards. Five of 20 from the field, four of eight from the line ... he could not buy a basket.
The truly disturbing component of Bron's performance was that he could not get to the basket at will, which is normally his trademark. Without those easy points, and with his outside jumper not falling, James ... had nothing. And that does not happen to him often.
Didn't We See This Already?: When the Cavs played the Lakers in Los Angeles last month, they were destroyed by the Lakers in the paint. The Lakers' Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol basically had their way with the Cavs' big men. Really, Vaseline should have been involved.
Ah, we said, but the Cavs were without big Z! Surely things would be different once Ilgauskas returned to action. And with Bynum being felled by a serious knee injury a week ago, well, the Cavs really should have been dominant down low, right?
Not quite. The Cavs had absolutely no answer for Odom, whose 17 total rebounds included seven at the offensive end. At one point in the fourth quarter, the telecast flashed a statistic saying that the Lakers had a 58-18 advantage on points in the paint. Funny thing is, having watched the game, I thought that number seemed kind of low.
The play that particularly stuck out for me: in the fourth quarter, with the Cavs having reduced a ten-point Lakers lead to five at 90-85, Gasol missed a jumper. Wally was sort of in position for the rebound. "Sort of" wasn't enough to stop Odom, who out-jumped Szczerbiak (I know - in other news, water is wet) and put the ball into the hoop. If any single basket deflated the Cavs in this game, that was the one.
The end result: With the NBA trading deadline ten days away, expect a renewed sense of urgency in finding a talented big man (cough Marcus Camby cough) to add to the mix for the rest of the season.
Didn't We See This Already Too?: All too often, the third quarter has been the Cavs' soft underbelly - they come back onto the court listless and prone to lapsing into "dribble for 20 seconds, then bombs away" offensive sets. That's exactly what happened in this game - they gave up 11 straight points to the Lakers, all but evaporating their 12-point lead.
Side Note: Part of the reason the Lakers had that 11-point run early in the third quarter was because the Cavs' Ben Wallace missed two dunks during that stretch. Seriously. (Not long after, he also missed a layup)
As Long As I'm Pounding On A Big Man Whom I'll Never Have To Face: This game was one of those sad reminders that Father Time spares nobody. On multiple occasions, Odom (who is not exactly a kid himself) blew by Wallace for easy baskets. Wallace has his flashes of his prior glory, but he is simply no longer able to dominate a game defensively (or to be as feared by opposing players, although I sure wouldn't want to be smacked by one of his elbows in the chest) as he did during his Detroit years.
Watch Them Miss!: The Cavs from the free throw line: 12 of 19. That's 63%. That is Not Good. In fact, that is One Airball Away From Ben Wallace.
Watch Them Make It ... And Still Get Criticized!: The Cavs fared much better from three point range, shooting almost 50% (11 of 23) from beyond the arc. That's an exceptional percentage. So why do I mention it on this side of the column? Because 23 attempted three pointers is too many. (See earlier mention about being dominated in the paint.) The three-point shooting kept Cleveland in the game, but it also killed them. If you can't get close-range baskets at least some of the time, you're going to have a very rough road to travel.
NOT THAT YOU ASKED, BUT...:
A Note Of Heartfelt Thanks: ...to the fine people at CBS, who ran a Viagra ad during "60 Minutes" this evening. In no time at all, I went from fielding questions from my five-year-old about the plane that landed into the water to "Daddy, what's ‘erecthile dyffuncshun'?"
Not that I should have to answer that question anyway. According to Official Friend of GBS Matt Lautzenheiser, most erectile dysfunction could be cured by simply having afflicted men hook up with hot women. (Note to those readers who are Matt's wife: he emphasized that he personally would not need this treatment.) I'm not opposed to that treatment plan, although I think you'll have a hell of a time getting any insurance company to pay for it.
WHAT LIES AHEAD:
We're almost to the All-Star Break; and thanks to a light schedule this week, the Cavs will actually go an entire week without a game. They'll be at Indiana on Tuesday night, then home to face Phoenix on Wednesday. And then the entire team (excluding LeBron James) (but including Mo Williams) will get a week to relax, work on their golf games, or do whatever else NBA players do whenever they get a spot of free time during the season.