Lakers dominate in 2nd half to end Cavs’ home win streak

Published 1:04 am Monday, February 9, 2009

Kobe Bryant was sick. The Cleveland Cavaliers just looked it.

With Bryant suffering from the flu, Lamar Odom scored a season-high 28 points — 15 in the third quarter— and Paul Gasol scored 18 as the streak-busting Los Angeles Lakers dominated the second half and handed Cleveland its first home loss this season, 101-91 on Sunday to complete a 6-0 road trip.

Bryant was not himself. The superstar vomited before the game, shivered with chills throughout and needed intravenous fluids at halftime. But Odom picked up the offensive slack, helped contain LeBron James on defense, and was the biggest factor in the Lakers outscoring the Cavaliers 50-30 after halftime.

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‘‘That was one of the best games he’s played for us,’’ Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of the enigmatic Odom. ‘‘He’s had some spectacular games, but that was a terrific game. It was the total package of his game. He broke people down with his speed and quickness to the basket and got some easy shots.’’

It’s been a tough few days for Cleveland. First, guard Mo Williams was bypassed for the second time as an All-Star. Then, James had his apparent historic triple-double in New York downgraded by an NBA review, and now, the Cavaliers have had their invincibility at home stripped by the road-weary Lakers.

‘‘You have to give the Lakers credit,’’ said James, who scored 16 but missed 15 of his 20 field-goal tries. ‘‘I missed a lot of easy looks that I usually make.’’

The Cavaliers came in 23-0 at Quicken Loans Arena, but were stopped by the Lakers, who are gaining a reputation for stopping streaks.

They ended Boston’s 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day and halted a 12-game run by the Celtics earlier this week. This was Cleveland’s first loss at home since Game 5 against Washington in the first round of last season’s playoffs.

‘‘I didn’t want it to happen,’’ James said. ‘‘But I’m glad it’s over.’’

The Lakers weren’t intimidated in one of the NBA’s rowdiest arena and went undefeated on a road trip that also included stops in Minnesota, Memphis, New York, Toronto and Boston. Los Angeles’ trip started rocky with center Andrew Bynum injuring his knee against the Grizzlies, but it couldn’t have ended any better.

Beginning with Bryant’s record-setting 61-point performance against the Knicks, the Lakers have gone 4-0 without Bynum. They didn’t commit a turnover in the final 19:28 against the Cavs.

‘‘We’re playing for perfection,’’ Odom said, ‘‘and in order to do that, it takes a lot of energy, focus and commitment to winning and doing whatever it takes. We got production from everyone.’’

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 22 to lead Cleveland, which shot just 28 percent (11-of-39) in the second half and didn’t play its customary shutdown defense. Williams, whose All-Star snub had infuriated the Cavs, scored 19 and James finished with 12 assists and eight rebounds.

Odom, who added a season-best 17 rebounds, was unstoppable in the third, when the Lakers outscored the Cavaliers 31-16 and turned a 10-point deficit into a 82-77 lead entering the fourth.

‘‘I never play the game for stats,’’ Odom said. ‘‘It’s all about winning.’’

Guarded by Wally Szczerbiak and rookie J.J. Hickson, Odom scored 13 of Los Angeles’ last 16 points to close the quarter, capping his one-man scorefest with a two-handed dunk off a miss in the final second as the Lakers became just the fourth team this season to lead Cleveland at home after three.

But unlike the three other teams, the Lakers finished the job.

Los Angeles pushed its lead to 10 in the fourth before the Cavaliers closed to 93-89 on two free throws by Ilgauskas with 3:06 left. But Bryant hit a high-arching fadeaway, and Gasol dropped one of two free throws to make it 96-89 when the jumbo scoreboard above midcourt went dark, a symbolic moment for Cleveland’s players and fans.

James was stripped on the Cavs’ next possession, and Gasol made two more free throws and scored on a putback as the Lakers put an exclamation point on one of their biggest wins this season.

Cleveland’s crowd was at a playoff pitch from the outset for one of the most anticipated games of the season, a matchup of the league’s top stars, both leading MVP candidates, and two of the NBA’s best teams.

But the game never materialized into a Bryant vs. James affair as Odom stole the spotlight.

Bryant got more medical treatment after the game and was not available for interviews.

James was careful not to complain about losing his triple-double in New York, but he was clearly miffed by the league’s decision.

‘‘Um. Should I say something?’’ he wondered before opting to keep his opinion a secret. ‘‘We won the basketball game and that’s all that matters.’’