Stepping Up

Kurt —  February 12, 2007

Over at LAist, in a little preview of Sunday’s game, I stated something for that more mainstream audience I think is understood here: When stars like Kobe and LeBron clash, the guy that gets the win is the guy that gets the best play from his supporting cast.

With that in mind, let’s look at the last three and a half minutes of the game against the Cavaliers. Kobe just tied the score at 81 with a pair of free throws.

3:38. Cleveland brings the ball up the floor and gets the ball to LeBron out beyond the top of the key. Anderson Varejao came out and set the pick, LeBron goes to the right around it but Bynum has five fouls so he lays way back near the paint (all game the Lakers had hedged hard to keep LeBron from driving). LeBron drives deep but rather than shoot over Bynum and Lamar he kicks it to the corner to Sahsa Pavlovic, however, for one of the few times in the game a Laker is ready and Mo Evans is quick to rotate out. So, Pavlovic throws the ball into Varejao at the right block. He spins to the right, gets into the paint, puts his shoulder into Bynum to draw the contact and goes up. He gets the foul, Bynum fouls out and Varejao hits two free throws. 83-81 Cavs.

3:20 Kobe gets the ball out at the left wing extended past the three point line, he waits for Turiaf to come and set the pick, but he fakes going around it to the right and quickly drives back to the left. Larry Hughes stays fairly close, so Kobe takes a 15-foot fade away from the left wing, it comes up short.

3:06 Lebron brings the ball up and again it’s Varejao out high to set the pick, and this time it’s Turiaf’s turn to be way back rather than hedge. Lebron goes pretty much right at him, Turiaf picks up the foul. Lebron hits both free throws. 85-81 Cavs.

2:59 Kobe gets the ball near the top of the key and is instantly doubled. He swings it to Lamar who makes a great quick pass to Turiaf in the paint, who is fouled by LeBron. Turiaf hits both, 85-83 Cavs.

2:50 The Lakers make a defensive change, putting Odom on Varejao, so this time when he sets the high pick the Lakers switch so Odom is on LeBron, not that it really stops LeBron from taking it to the hole. Turiaf comes over to help and gets a foul for throwing a hip into LeBron, although how that was in the act of shooting along the baseline behind the basket when he just threw his hands up is a little odd. LeBron hits one of two, 86-83 Cavs.

2:30 Lakers get the ball to Kobe at the right-wing extended, and he drives to the right, but when the defense collapses he kicks it out to Smush for a three at the top of the key. A Cav defender comes flying at Smush who does the mature thing, just lets him go by, steps inside the line and drains a 20 footer. 86-85 Cavs.

2:05 James is isolated at the top of the key, this time no screen. He drives to the right and draws just about every Laker on the floor. He kicks to Varejao, who has a lifetime to set up for a 16 footer and drains it. 88-85 Cavs.

1:43 After working the ball around the Lakers get it to Kobe at the pinch post (but he has to take a step out for possession), then the double comes quick. Kobe holds the ball up looking for a pass but Larry Hughes knocks the ball free, and Pavlovic picks it up and goes running down for a layup. Smush gets back then commits a wimpy foul so Pavlovic scores and goes to the line for the and one. If you’re going to take the foul, then FOUL and make sure he doesn’t score. Pavlovic hits the free throw. 91-85 Cavs.

1:26 Odom has the ball out top as the initiator. Kobe comes out high to get the ball, Hughes comes out higher to deny. Lamar sees the space that creates and drives to his preferred left, then hits a little step back over Varejao. 91-87.

1:09 LeBron starts a run to the basket from out near half court but Turiaf is there with a nice defensive rotation, so LeBron uses a skip pass to Pavlovic open in the left corner, but he proves he’s human and misses. The ball bounces high off the top of the backboard, that throws off Turiaf’s jump, Varejao taps the ball out and as a couple people goes for it, Kobe knocks it out of bounds.

LeBron takes the ball out of bounds, throws it in to Varejao at the right wing, who seems to catch the Lakers off guard when he just takes the ball to the hole past Odom. Turiaf rotates over but his foot is in the restricted area and he fouls Varejao, who scores but misses the and one. 93-87 Cavs.

:48 Kobe takes it on himself and brings the ball up then just goes to the hole never slowing down, he drives right into a triple team when Gooden blocks the shot from behind. Meanwhile, just a skip pass away, Odom and Smush are wide open for threes.

:40 After the block, Kobe quickly fouls Pavlovic, he hits both. 95-87.

Next trip down Odom and Smush miss desperation threes, and then the Lakers choose not to foul and let LeBron have a dunk. Oddly, the Lakers later choose to foul with 9 seconds left, but by then the point is moot.

Bottom line for the Cavs, in the last three minutes: LeBron had 3 points and other Cavs had 11. They scored on every trip down the floor. Game over.