3:34 p.m. -- Welcome to the live blog. All the hugging and kissing and hand slapping is going on. When ABC deems fit, we'll start.
3:41 p.m. -- Lakers 14, Cavs 7. Last two games Vladimir Radmanovic had two points total. Plus his coach called him out and said he basically sucks right now. But already seven points and four boards. After the 3-pointer bounced in one of the Lakers beat writers suggested they stop the game and give him the ball. I say wait until he gets to the double-double at the quarter break
Also...Z gets a lob from Larry Hughes and gets free in the lane. Why not dunk it? Joey Crawford is reffing. Keep in mind that he dislikes Mike Brown. Speaking of the coach, think he's happy with the defensive effort so far? Lakers are on the 14th day of road trip and it's 20 degrees. But they look like they intend to play.
3:50 p.m. -- Lakers 18, Cavs 13. Drew Gooden is skipping, which means he's got energy. He has five rebounds already. Also LeBron is trying to attack the basket, but the Lakers are basically employing a zone against him by packing the lane. He can complain about not getting calls all he wants, but you don't get calls going 1-on-3.
Also...I don't believe Donyell Marshall can defend Andrew Bynum, sorry...On the scoreboard Damon Jones just said his home town of Galveston is known for dirty water.
4:01 p.m. -- End of the first quarter Cavs 24, Lakers 23. The Cavs are aggressively attacking the rim and it is a good sign. The Lakers have been switching on pick-and-rolls and blitzing against James, which is something I think the Cavs can take advantage of. Especially if they use LeBron and Andy Varejao in high screen rolls. Sasha has gone to the basket a couple of times already, that puts enormous pressure on the defense because the opponents want to set up their defense to get ready for James drives from the other side of the floor.
Also...Notice the Lakers went right to Kobe Bryant when Eric Snow was subbed in for Larry Hughes. I believe the Lakers consider that a weakness.
4:11 p.m. -- Cavs 33, Lakers 27. Sasha is playing well again today and right now he's really battling with Maurice Evans. Evans is a pesky defender that tends to get under other players' skin. The reason Phil Jackson has him on Sasha is to try and slow him down. But his penetration has been very good thus far as he had a very nice assist to Z a few minutes ago. But he has two fouls now, so he may sit.
Also...Donyell Marshall's 4-point play was the Cavs first of the season...The Cavs have eight fastbreak points already.
4:20 p.m. -- Cavs 39, Lakers 32. Eric Snow is doing a pretty solid job on Kobe Bryant, not that the game is even close to being over of course. Cavs have continue to attack the basket and they are finding lanes and it is the reason they are winning. They have 20 points in the paint already and are shooting 50 percent. That is good basketball. Right now Jackson had Kobe on LeBron and it is a good matchup. LeBron burned him on that backdoor play a few moment ago for the dunk. But watch out, VladRad is back in the game.
4:27 p.m. -- Cavs 46, Lakers 40. It is as times like these when I wonder what Larry Hughes is thinking. He makes a terrible pass the leads to a dunk at the other end and then take two bad, contested 3-point shots. I know that he made the second one, but why? Hughes has been driving as have the Cavs in this game, why chuck 3's when the Lakers are on a run. And speaking of bad jumpers, why is Z taking 20-footers from the corner. That's outside his range. He's been able to score on Bynum on the block and receiving entry passes off drives, so stick with it. But he does have nine shots already, so that is good. Marshall had nine points in seven minutes but hasn't been back on the floor. My guess is because Brown is concerned about him on defense against Lamar Odom or Bynum.
4:40 p.m. -- Halftime. Cavs 52, Lakers 41. Well, the Cavs were on a nice little 9-0 run before screwing up the last 10 seconds of the half. By the way, Kobe's defense on LeBron was great there. All in all, though, it was an excellent half because the Cavs played smart offense and solid defense. They shot 51 percent and got 26 points in the paint. They held the Lakers to just 42 percent shooting and got them to put up 11 3-pointers, of which they just made two.
The willingness to not take contested jumpers and instead drive -- you can really see it in LeBron, Gibson and Sasha -- is leading to a Renaissance of the Cavs' offense, not any sort of running at this point. When more guys than LeBron drive, as I mentioned before, it really requires the opposition to be very sound. And since Gibson, Sasha, and LeBron are good at finishing and Ilgauskas, Varejao and Gooden are good offensive rebounds, it is very effective. The Cavs also have 12 second-chance points to the Lakers' 3.
Snow played the last 15 minutes of the half and held Kobe to 3-of-8 shooting in that stretch. It may not last, but he won't let Kobe by him and will make him make those fallaway jumpers. Which he's great at, but they aren't easy. If it wasn't for Radmanovic, the Lakers would be down by about 20 by now. Odom hasn't been a factor and Smush Parker and Bryan Cook haven't been able to hit an open jumper. My guess is in the second half Kobe will get it going and the Lakers will make some of those open jumpers so the Cavs will really have to be tight on defense. But right now they are winning because they are shooting layups and the Lakers are taking jumpers.
LeBron's 3/4 court shot was about .2 seconds too late. That's the third game in a row the Cavs have made a 3-pointer at the end of quarter get called off and it's been close enough to look at the video.
5:04 p.m. -- Cavs 56, Lakers 50. From the first few seconds on of the third quarter, you could see Kobe had borught out a new gear in the second half. He was all over Hughes defensively and then went right to the rack on the first possession. This is the Lakers' attempt at making this a game because if they can't draw close in the fourth it is time to think about home. But so far they have succedded. They have been the aggressive everywhere and it has earned them foul calls. The Cavs have five and the Lakers none. The Cavs need to pick up the pace and quell the uprising now or it is going to be a barnburner.
Kobe already has six points in the quarter, we'll see if Mike Brown is tempted to put Eric Snow back in. Also, to increase the energy I expect Sasha to be out on the floor after the timeout.
5:14 p.m. -- Cavs 61, Lakers 54. The Cavs are hanging on because they've been able to get some defensive stops. The Lakers have made some adjustments and are packing the paint to deter drives. The Cavs need to take some measures to open some lanes like back doors or running high screen rolls with the floor spread. The Lakers are in four trouble as Bynum has four. They have no quality backup bigs, the Cavs should be driving and pounding the ball to Gooden or Z inside to put pressure on the Lakers and the officials, who have noticed the foul differential.
Mike Brown has three technical fouls on this homestand, I think. Dude is getting testy. It is funny to watch him try to get them, the officials know he's not a hothead so he's basically got to run out on the block to get a whistle.
5:26 p.m. -- End of the third quarter. Lakers 67, Cavs 64. The Lakers closed the 3rd in a 13-3 run to take the lead. The Cavs offense has let the Lakers right back into the game. They did not keep up their attacking from the first half. As far as I can tell, all LeBron (who didn't score in the qtr.) did for the last half hour was dribble and take bad jumpers. How about this stat...The cavs were 4-of-24 shooting in the quarter. Like that?
When he did go to the basket he tried to lay it up. Got to dunk that thing. The Cavs scored just six points in the paint in the third and two of those baskets came on putbacks. That is just not going to get it done. Their defense has been pretty good, the Lakers are shooting just 39 percent and were just 6-of-18 in the third, but that old offense is letting them down again.
What they've done is give Kobe clearance to beat them by himself in the fourth, which he always does to teams. Which he will try to do. We'll see if LeBron rises to the challenge here. Recent history makes me wonder what will happen.
By the way, no complaining about the refs, the aggressive team is getting the calls.
5:35 p.m. -- Cavs 72, Lakers 69, 8:58 to play. Sasha is guard Kobe and doing a solid job. He's also driving the ball, which has already made a big difference just as much as his 3-pointer to start the quarter. Snow is playing great defense, he's proved valuable today. The Cavs are going to Z to pressure Bynum and it is working right now. The Lakers are now the ones settling for jumpers, if this trend continues the Cavs will win. Especially if they continue to make Kobe work. We'll see, the biggest challenge will be to continue to execute on offense. They have to work to get high percentage shots and fouls. If they don't they can't sustain because Kobe will make his share no matter what.
5:43 p.m. -- Lakers 77, Cavs 74, 5:42 to play. This is what Kobe does, he makes great plays and tough shots in the fourth quarter. But the Cavs are helping and recovering on defense very well. It is their offense that is killing them, they have just 25 points in the second half. Again their Achilles is biting them badly. Kobe is getting the headlines and he should, he's great and had scored the last 10 points. But he's not beating them, they've given up 77 points and 40 percent shooting. Meanwhile LeBron is taking bad jumpers. Some of it is the Lakers D, much of it is the Cavs bad offense.
5:55 p.m. -- Cavs 83, Lakers 81, 2:59 to play. Sasha Pavlovic is the Cavs MVP today. I can't even put into words what his contributions have meant to the team effort. If Kobe is going to make twisting jumpers over hands then he's going to, you can't foul him on jumpers. This has not been a good day for LeBron, he's been outclassed again on national TV. It will get worse if he misses these two free throws. Cavs are battling, but they are in Kobe's wheelhouse.
6 p.m. -- Cavs 90, Lakers 85. Anderson Varejao must've gone to chruch this morning, making that jumper. At least LeBron has been able to make key passes to keep the Cavs ahead.
6:06 p.m. -- Final, Cavs 99, Lakers 90. This was an ugly victory, but it a still a good one. Varejao and Pavlovic were massive in the game. For the Cavs to win a game like this without getting a huge effort from anyone in the starting lineup is remarkable. It is somewhat sad, but remarkable nonetheless. LeBron was guilty of a lot of things in this one, especially plenty of bad offensive possessions in the second half. But he did make some plays in the end and made 3-of-4 free throws when they were badly needed. He also had 18 points and eight rebounds and five assists. But make no mistake, he's still off his game and that is somewhat disturbing.
Sasha had 21 points and played his heart out on defense. He's turning me into a believer. Andy had 12 points and six rebounds and was huge in the fourth quarter.
Overall, the Cavs defense probably gets the most credit for the victory. It held the Lakers to less than 40 percent shooting and made it generally tough for Kobe. He got his 36 points, but not a win. Although, Mike Brown again was a little late in calling for a double team. Not unlike that loss in Miami with DWade going crazy. This is how the Cavs are going to win, they are going to do it with defense. They played great defense on this homestand and went 4-1, which is what they really needed.
Thanks for joining the blog. Much more to come, of course.