Los Angeles -- It is almost 2:45 a.m. back in Cleveland. My guess is most fans didn't get to see the Cavs finish off a 114-108 win over the Lakers tonight at the Staples Center. Enjoy the highlights, they will be all over the place tomorrow. Here are some of my thoughts.
--This was a nice, quality win for the Cavs that they gutted out. Easily could've won in Miami and in Salt Lake the same way. The fact that they played well all three places perhaps bodes well for them in the future. Nine games over .500 at the break is not bad, they have the No. 2 seed. If they have that at the end of the season, no matter the record, it will be deemed a successful year. Long way to go, though.
--If LeBron James played to 75 percent of this level 60 percent of the time, he'd win the MVP award. The 38 points is nice, the 10 in the fourth is better, the 18-of-22 at the line is brilliant. Now, he got some calls tonight he doesn't get other nights. But his willingness to drive and find lanes, even against Kobe Bryant, showed how dominant he can be. He backed down a bunch of guys tonight and that only makes him stronger. He played an A-plus game and won it for the Cavs. That is how he played at the end of last season.
--Sasha Pavlovic was great down the stretch. Not just with his big 3 late, but he was strong when LeBron was resting as well. His 11 points and Donyell Marshall's 11 were just as vital as LeBron's.
--Eric Snow gets a gold star with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists. He won't do this every night but it shows what it means when LeBron doesn't have to spend so much time at point guard. Again, having one would make such a major difference on this team.
--Andy Varejao makes two starts, plays 38 minutes in both, stays out of foul trouble, makes free throws and gets 28 rebounds. If I were his agent, I'd make copies of these two games and prepare to send them out.
--Following my ongoing theme of the season, allow me to point out the Cavs had 50 points in the paint. This is how you win games, folks.
--In the final minutes when Kobe was guarding LeBron and he got the ball and was matched up with him, you could sense a heightened attention in the building. There were some great battles between the two and on this night, LeBron got the better of them. Kobe hit a couple great shots, but then he always does. LeBron gets the nod in this one, just as Kobe individually probably outplayed him last Sunday.
--In my first three years covering the Cavs, I never saw them win a game in the Staples Center. Now they have two wins in a month and they went 4-0 against the L.A. teams this season. It's too late for me to look that up, but I gotta believe if it isn't a first in franchise history, it hasn't happened in a while.
Also, off topic, the issue of whether an openly gay player could peacefully play in the modern NBA is obviously in the news these days. With everyone doing issue stories at the All-Star Game, I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about it over the weekend. Regularly spending time in NBA locker rooms, I say that time has not yet arrived and I will give you two moments from Thursday night that illustrate what I mean.
Before the game, LeBron was asked who would win the planned race between Charles Barkley and referee Dick Bavetta scheduled for Saturday night. LeBron said: "I'll take Dick in that race." As soon as the interview ended, James' teammates started teasing him about the comment. After the game for some reason both doors leading to the visitor's locker room were propped open, which meant there was a view right into the shower area from the arena tunnel. One Cav, emerging from the steam, looked and saw he was visible to passersby and asked that the doors be closed. Then he said "I don't know if Amaechi's out there or not."
Look, it's all locker room banter and there was plenty of laughter everywhere. I'm not a prude or a defender of social justice, I laugh at jokes. But my point is that is standard fare in the NBA every single day. And it seems like it is a long way from being tolerant or changing from my vantage point. And I don't need Tim Hardaway to tell me that.
OK, I'm off to Vegas with almost no sleep. I'll be writing plenty from there, but I can't promise coherence.
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