Kobe Bryant wanted to prove he could best LeBron James with one hand.
He dislocated the ring finger on his shooting hand in the first quarter, had it popped back into place and taped up, then went back to play the rest of the game. It really slowed him down — he only had 20 points, 12 assists, was a team best +16, covered LeBron James most of the night (holding him to 9 of 25 shooting). All of which was key to the Lakers beating the Cavaliers 105-88.
Imagine what he could do healthy.
Bryant dislocated his finger while trying to swipe the ball out of James' hand in the first quarter. He called a time out, and then went over to the bench where Gary Vitti popped the dislocation back into place. X-Rays taken after the game were negative, and Kobe said he will not be missing any time. Also, apparently he does not feel pain.
Bryant had plenty of help Monday night. What was billed as the Kobe vs. LeBron game was determined by the other four guys on the floor for the Lakers.
Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 22 points on 11 of 13 shooting as the Cavaliers had no answer for Gasol’s well-rounded game. They also had no answer for Sasha Vujacic, who shot like “The Machine” scoring 14 points and shooting 4 of 5 from three point range.
After a close first half that ended with Cleveland up one, the Lakers turned up the defensive effort in the third quarter and took control of the game, starting with a 13-3 run to open the second half. Andrew Bynum controlled the paint, Bryant did a good job denying LeBron the basketball, and when The King did get the ball the Lakers big men were there to help, forcing James to be a jump shooter.
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Meanwhile, the Lakers dominated in the paint, outscoring the Cavaliers by 14 in that area. The Lakers crisp ball rotations led to a lot of open looks while the Cavaliers looked stymied by the Lakers defense that demands that kind of passing from the opposing team.
Well, LeBron James didn’t look stymied all the time. He looked like an MVP candidate, with his ability to drive the lane and ability to hit threes, at times making a crowd used to seeing the impossible from Bryant ohh and ahh. LeBron also hit teammates for open looks, but they didn’t always go down.
However, the Lakers supporting cast looked good.