When Omri Casspi was defending Matt Barnes on an inbounds play in the second quarter, Barnes took the ball and tapped it off Casspi's nose. The move clearly angered Casspi and perhaps ignited him on to his best night of the season, although he said it had nothing to do with his improved performance.
But he certainly was irritated by the move from Barnes, which is illegal and should've been whistled by the officials.
"The ball hit my face," Casspi said. "It wasn't fair. Something that shouldn't happen on an NBA court, but it happens."
Casspi had 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in what was easily his best game as a Cav. He said he felt comfortable when the game began, got to the basket the way he wanted and finally felt like he was in a rhythm.
Casspi has been terrible offensively most of the season, shooting around 38 percent, looking lost at times and missing wide open looks most nights. The Cavs hope this is the sign of better days ahead because their collection of wing players is among the weakest in the league.
"I think he’s getting more comfortable," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "The next 10 games hopefully he’ll be better than he was in the first 10 games. I think it’s all about comfort, all about confidence right now with him and I think he’s getting both."
He also got a lot of Barnes on Friday. After the nose tapping incident, Barnes shoved Casspi hard out of bounds in the second half. Casspi got up and started walking toward Barnes, but Antawn Jamison intervened and told him to forget about it.
Casspi said he never had trouble with Barnes before tonight, but was clearly aggravated and said he briefly lost his composure because of the nose tap.
"I think I lost it for a minute or two," Casspi said. "But I went down to the locker room at halftime and was talking to myself. I needed to keep going. I needed to be focused and keep doing what I was doing and not let it get me out of the game."
Friday was the first step in the right direction, but Casspi still has a long way to go. If nothing else, Barnes' move seemed to wake him up and snap him out of his season-long funk.
All five Lakers starters played at least 30 minutes on Friday. None of the Cavs' starters reached the 30-minute mark.
After the Cavs cut a 19-point deficit to 3, Daniel Gibson's potential game-tying 3-pointer rimmed out. The Cavs didn't get back on defense and Barnes got an easy dunk for a five-point swing with seven minutes left.
"I think our team attitude right now is we can be contenders. We feel like we have a different team, especially from last year when I watched them. Every team we play against, we feel we can win."