- Good players always have an extra skip in their step when matched up against other good players, but LeBron James has the word “dominate” on a continuous loop in his head whenever he faces Kobe Bryant. In another head-to-head battle between The Best Basketball Players on Earth, James again got the better hand, bulling his way to 41 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals against the Lake Show for a big 98-95 road win. LeBron’s Cavs have now taken five out of the last six from Kobe’s Lakers, with the only blemish a narrow one-point loss back on January 12, 2006, in The City of Angels.
On Sunday afternoon, Kobe was good–33 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists–but LeBron was great, turning it up in the fourth quarter like he so often does and basically willing his team to victory all by himself. It was like last year’s Eastern Conference Playoffs against the Detroit Pistons all over again, with the Lakers doing everything they could to stop James but failing in most every aspect. He nailed improbable jumpers with Kobe’s hand in his face, drove into the lane through, around, and over hapless defenders to make difficult layups look easy, and played superb man defense on Kobe at the other end, frustrating the Lakers’ star and–even if just for that afternoon, that fourth quarter–making his case to be crowned as the NBA’s very best.
Kobe Bryant and LeBron James Photo Credit: Icon SMI
And James has repeatedly made that statement when locking horns with Bryant: over these last six meetings, James has averaged 31 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists, and 46% FG.
With Andrew Bynum sidelined for the Lakers, these two teams are near mirror imitations of each other: both enlist solid supporting casts, but both live and die by the game-to-game performance of a megastar. I’m still not convinced that, given their current roster, the Cavaliers can make it to the NBA Finals for a second straight season, but it does give me–and probably every other Eastern Conference team—considerable pause whenever James takes over like he did on Sunday. It’s a scary, scary thing when he’s rolling like that, when he has that look in his eye that says “we are going to win this game. I am going to win this game for us.”
- We’re not the only ones who’ve cried out for it to happen, and at long last it seems the Pistons’ Powers That Be finally agree (at least for now): Amir Johnson looks to have finally worked his way into the rotation. After three straight DNP’s, the lanky 20-year-old was dusted off and thrown into the fire during the team’s last two contests, averaging 11:30 minutes of action against the 76ers and Magic, minutes that included time in the first quarter, which has been an extreme rarity in the youngster’s early NBA career. Johnson’s offensive game is still very raw and unpolished, but in the few sets where he received the ball in a position to score, he did flash a potentially solid suite of silky go-to moves in the post to use later down the road.
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