We should savor these showdowns, because there aren’t going to be many more.
It may only be a couple more times that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James line up opposite each other — and when they do you can’t always expect the kind of “anything you can do I can do better” kind of show the two put on Thursday night in Los Angeles. It had the feel of an All-Star Game — the stars went at each other and jawed through it all, but with a smile on their faces.
It was role reversal night. Kobe, the guy known as the gunner, came out setting up teammates from the opening tip — he had eight assists in the first quarter on is way to a career high 17 dimes on the night. He chipped in 19 points on 14 shots, too.
LeBron, the star known as the willing passer, was the one just scoring — including 11 in the fourth quarter — on his way to 36 points on the night. LeBron was doing it inside and out, shooting 7-of-9 inside eight feet, but also knocking down four threes (on 10 shots).
LeBron’s model worked better for a night (and he got more help) and the Cavaliers won 109-102. That snapped a six-games losing streak for the Cavs.
The Cavs won because they played more defense. After allowing the Lakers to shoot 58 percent in the first half the Cavs clamped down in the third and held the Lakers to 30 percent shooting in the third. That’s when the Cavs took control of the game and the outcome was never really in doubt after that, even though the Lakers made some shots late to make it interesting.
But that’s not what we’re going to remember from this game.
We’re going to remember Kobe and LeBron going at it. Kobe looked like five years younger, he had a bounce in his step and let everyone know it. LeBron, as he has for a couple games now since taking a couple weeks off to get his body right, looks fresh and explosive again.
We just need to savor nights like this.