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LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers top Kobe Bryant in final battle

By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange   |   March 11, 2016 at 7:04 AM
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LOS ANGELES -- LeBron James believed Kobe Bryant would be in top form Thursday.

James was right.

"I know he was not taking this game off, for sure, and I definitely wasn't taking it off, so it was great to be out there," James said.

Bryant delivered a quality performance, but James and the Cavaliers were too much for him and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points and handed out nine assists, and the Cavaliers coasted past the Lakers 120-108 at Staples Center.

James added 24 points, seven assists and five rebounds as the Cavaliers (46-18) captured their fifth win in six games and remained 2 1/2 games ahead of the Toronto Raptors for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

It was the final matchup between Bryant, who is retiring at season's end, and James. At times, it lived up to the pregame billing with the two players squaring off and going one-on-one and sharing some laughs.

"We love the lights, and we get up for the best moments," said James, who tied Kevin Johnson for 19th on the NBA's all-time assists list with 6,711. "To give the fans and give our beautiful sport one last opportunity to watch us both on the same floor (was great)."

Cleveland's Channing Frye, who started for Kevin Love (sore knee), collected 21 points and seven rebounds, converting five of seven 3-pointers and eight of 10 shots from the floor. All five Cavs starters scored in double figures, including J.R. Smith, who finished with 17 points and hit four 3-pointers, and Tristan Thompson, who contributed 10 points and 14 rebounds. Reserve guard Matthew Dellavedova had 11 points.

Bryant scored 26 points on 11-of-16 shooting, hitting three of four 3-pointers. His point total led the Lakers, who failed in their attempt to win three in a row for only the second time this season. Much of the postgame chatter centered around his final duel with James.

"It's just fun. I enjoy the physicality of it," Bryant said. "Playing against him is fun because of his size. It's always fun to bump with him, to have that physicality of backing him down and driving and bumping. It's fun."

Lakers rookie point guard D'Angelo Russell had 24 points, and forward Julius Randle chipped in 15 points and nine rebounds. Marcelo Huertas came off the bench to score 13 points and record five assists.

The Lakers (14-52) dropped their four straight head-to-head matchup with the Cavs.

"We just didn't stick to the game plan, especially to start the game," Lakers coach Byron Scott said. "Especially Channing Frye and some of the coverage that we had. We kind of let him get loose. He had a big night, and that was basically the X-factor. I am disappointed in that aspect of it because we didn't stick to what we had been doing and what we talked about."

Cleveland used its long-distance shooting to beat Los Angeles. The Cavs made 16 of 35 3-pointers (45.7 percent) to seven of 22 (31.8 percent) for the Lakers. Overall, the Cavs shot 52.9 percent from the floor to 52.5 percent for the Lakers.

Ten 3-pointers (on 19 attempts) by the Cavaliers in the first half staked the visitors to a 64-55 halftime lead. Frye connected on four of five treys and scored 16 points by the break to lead all scorers. The Lakers sank just three of 11 from beyond the arc in the first half.

Irving said the Cavs' intensity in the second half allowed them to pull away.

"I just think we stopped being so flashy and started playing the game," Irving said. "A lot of turnovers that could have been avoided. Just wanted to dial in and get back into the game in the third quarter."

NOTES: Lakers PG D'Angelo Russell is averaging 21 points and 4.8 assists in 10 games since regaining his spot in the starting lineup. Russell is shooting 46.3 percent (31-for-67) from 3-point range in that span. ... Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving scored 20 or more points in a season-high seventh game in a row. ... Cavaliers F Tristan Thompson passed Austin Carr with 352 consecutive games played, the second-longest streak in franchise history and the longest active run in the NBA. ... Cleveland is 33-7 in its past regular-season games against Western Conference foes, including a 19-6 record this season. ... The two teams resume play Sunday as part of a doubleheader at Staples Center. The Cavaliers face the Los Angeles Clippers in the opener, while the Lakers play the New York Knicks in the nightcap.

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