LeBron’s Cavs hold off Kobe’s Lakers, 109-102
LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James scored 36 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers snapped their six-game losing streak with a 109-102 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night despite Kobe Bryant’s 19 points and career-high 17 assists.
Kyrie Irving added 22 points for Cleveland, which had lost nine of 10 before James held off Bryant down the stretch in an entertaining duel between two basketball icons.
Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 1:54 left and two free throws with 43 seconds to play, cutting Cleveland’s lead to 103-99. But James drove past Bryant for an acrobatic layup with 20.9 seconds left, and Bryant missed a jumper that essentially ended it.
Jordan Hill scored 20 points in the Lakers’ ninth loss in 12 games.
Kevin Love scored 17 points for the Cavaliers, who moved back to .500 with their first victory since Jan. 2.
Bryant set a career high for assists in his 1,279th regular-season game, playing in his second straight game after skipping three of four to rest his 36-year-old body. He showed off his playmaking skills, but James got the Cavs comfortably ahead while Kobe sat out under a strict minutes limit.
James and Bryant laughed and joked throughout the game, exchanging good-natured jibes about getting older. James turned 30 last month, while Bryant’s season has been defined by his weariness from a 19-year career.
But James has won 13 of his last 16 matchups with Kobe since 2006. When Bryant went back to the bench after getting his 15th assist in the third quarter, James took charge of the Cavs’ rally to an 11-point lead in the fourth.
On the fourth stop of Cleveland’s five-game West Coast trip, James hit four 3-pointers in his second game back from an eight-game absence with an injured right knee.
His newer teammates added contributions: J.R. Smith had three 3-pointers and 14 points, while Timofey Mozgov had 10 rebounds. Coach David Blatt used just three reserves, and the Cavs’ core rotation managed to end their embarrassing skid.
The Lakers opened with one of their best offensive halves in weeks, taking a 61-57 lead into the break with 58.1 percent shooting five 3-pointers and 20 assists, including 10 from Bryant. The Cavs blew an 11-point lead in the first quarter, but kept it close with 41 combined points from their Big Three.
Cavaliers: James ripped off the protective sleeve on his elbow in frustration after missing his first three free throws, only to miss a fourth without the support. … Love’s back appeared to be bothering him throughout the game. A trainer attended to him during a second-quarter timeout. … Cleveland began the night under .500 for the first time since Nov. 24.
Lakers: Bryant set his previous career high in assists on Feb. 2, 2002, against Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards. … Nick Young scored 14 points, but his streak of consecutive free throws made ended at 31 in the fourth quarter. … NBA career assists leader John Stockton also played 19 seasons, getting a season high of 13 assists that year.
Cavaliers: At Clippers on Friday.