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CLEVELAND 102, LAKERS 87

Lakers are trashed by Cavaliers, and by angry fans

L.A. is blown out by LeBron James and Co., 102-87, and some in the Staples Center crowd litter the court with souvenir foam fingers and plastic bottles late in the Christmas Day game.

December 26, 2009|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts after drawing a foul but missing a shot against the Cavaliers and LeBron James in the second quarter Friday.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant reacts after drawing a foul but missing a shot against… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Wary Christmas.

If this didn't throw some caution into the lovely prose cataloging the Lakers' steamroller of a season, would anything?

The Lakers were uninspiring and unexciting, in case their angry, booing fans didn't prove the point during a thorough 102-87 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday at Staples Center.

The Lakers lost their cool -- Kobe Bryant seemed edgy and off-kilter the entire game, and Lamar Odom was ejected in the fourth quarter -- and their fans followed suit, hurling about 50 promotional foam-finger giveaways on to the court with 4 minutes 4 seconds to play and the Lakers down 18.

The game was briefly delayed and, despite pleas from longtime in-house announcer Lawrence Tanter, more foam fingers were tossed from the stands after another foul was called with 3:45 to play. A few plastic bottles, filled with liquid, also were thrown onto the court.

Staples Center security guards assumed a more aggressive posture, several of them moving to the corners of the court and behind both benches.

Happy holidays, indeed.

"It wasn't a very nice way to spend Christmas day, to tell you the truth," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.

The images told the story in the fourth quarter, the Lakers down by as many as 21.

Pau Gasol sat on the bench with a perplexed look, hand under his chin. General Manager Mitch Kupchak took in the action in a luxury suite, an index finger firmly planted into the side of his head as he leaned back. Andrew Bynum sat on the bench, staring off into the distance.

On a day the Celtics won in Orlando without Paul Pierce, the Lakers foundered at home with no excuses at their disposal. They now share the NBA's best record with Boston, each team 23-5.

Maybe the Lakers would have been more motivated if they'd pretended they were playing Boston, their opponent a year ago in an intense grudge game won by the Lakers.

Bryant had 35 points against Cleveland but was a wild 11 for 32 from the field. Gasol had 11 points on four-for-11 shooting. The Lakers' reserves had two points going into the fourth quarter. The team shot 36.5%.

Defensively, the Lakers were a mess. Cleveland point guard Mo Williams had 28 points, LeBron James had 26 points and nine assists, and the Cavaliers (23-8) shot 54.3%, the best shooting percentage against the Lakers this season.

Bynum had another subpar effort, scoring four points on two-for-five shooting, leading someone to ask Bryant whether the Lakers' big men got overlooked in the post.

"I just think they got outworked," Bryant said, offering up rare public criticism of his teammates.

The Lakers had won 15 of 16 since Gasol returned from a hamstring injury, but a holiday victory was already in jeopardy in the first half.

Lakers fans began booing near the midpoint of the second quarter when Cavaliers forward Anderson Varejao beat everybody to a long rebound on offense. It eventually led to a Zydrunas Ilgauskas jump shot from the right side, giving the Cavaliers a 44-25 lead.

The theatrics began in the third quarter when Bryant slammed the ball to the court after not getting a foul call at the other end. Then Odom got a technical foul for jawing at referees.

Then Odom was ejected with 4:04 left to play after his second technical foul. That's when fans began tossing their free giveaways.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please do not throw items on the court," Tanter said to no avail.

"I've never seen an L.A. crowd react like this before," Jackson said. "I like their enthusiasm, I didn't like their demonstrative act. It wasn't a well- refereed game, it wasn't a well-played game and so as a response, the crowd was unhappy about it."

The Lakers were unhappy, period.

"We can't cruise and expect things to come our way just because we have such a high quality of players," Gasol said.

Caught up in the holiday spirit, a Lakers fan held up a sign early in the game: "All I want for Christmas is tacos."

Hopefully she had other things on her wish list too.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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