for this game

Pavlovic upstages James-Bryant showdown as Cavs win

Feb 12, 2007 - 2:32 AM CLEVELAND (Ticker) -- The nationally televised duel between superstars LeBron James and Kobe Bryant was settled by Sasha Pavlovic.

Pavlovic scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter as the Cleveland Cavaliers overcame a poor second half by James for a 99-90 victory over Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.

James scored 18 points but had just one basket in the second half for the Cavaliers, who withstood a 36-point outburst by Bryant and won their third straight game.

"It's not about bucket for bucket (with Bryant)," James said. "It's not street ball. It's just about trying to get your teammates an opportunity to succeed, and we did that."

Late last month, James missed a pair of games with a sore toe. Many of his minutes went to Pavlovic, who scored 30 points in those contests and has been a consistent contributor since.

Sunday was the fourth straight game in double figures for the Serbian native, who is averaging 16 points during that stretch. He began the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer that forged a 67-67 tie and held the hot hand while James struggled.

"I think five or six games ago I made the decision," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I've always known Sasha could play. But the minutes he's been getting, prior to him being the sixth man, he's been playing very well on both ends of the floor. So, he's earned the minutes more than anything else."

"I kind of feel like a prophet," James said. "I've been harping on Sasha for three years now. People were looking at me crazy and I've always said that if Sasha gets an opportunity, he is going to be very good."

Pavlovic had a driving layup that kept the Cavaliers within 77-76 with 5:05 to go and drained a 3-pointer that gave Cleveland an 81-79 lead at the 3:57 mark.

"I think it's (confidence) very high right now," Pavlovic said. "I'm the type of player that has to keep playing on that level. I have to play hard on defense and my offense will come."

"We were a little lackadaisical guarding them for some reason," Bryant said. "We have to play them."

Bryant scored the first 14 points of the period for the Lakers, including two free throws that tied it with 3:39 remaining. Los Angeles was still within 86-85 after Bryant set up Smush Parker for a jumper with 2:08 to play but got no closer.

"Unless we become a better defensive team, it doesn't matter if Kobe scores 14 straight points if we give up 18," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said.

After James - who made just 5-of-16 shots - found Anderson Varejao for an open jumper, Bryant was double-teamed by Pavlovic and Larry Hughes, who slapped the ball away. It was picked up by Pavlovic, who streaked in for a layup and a foul that made it 91-85 with 1:24 to go.

"He's about as talented as they come offensively," Brown said. "He knows how to put the ball in the hole. He knows how to pass the ball. He knows how to get to the rim. He knows how to get fouled. There's not much that the 6-foot-8 athletic guy from Serbia can't do on the offensive end of the floor."

A drive by Varejao, two free throws by Pavlovic and a thunderous dunk by James sealed matters.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored 17 points and Varejao added 12 for the Cavaliers, who visit the Lakers in another nationally televised matchup Thursday.

Bryant made 12-of-24 shots and 11-of-11 free throws, adding six assists. In the fourth quarter, he sank a series of tough jumpers and a twisting scoop shot from beneath the basket.

Vladimir Radmanovic had 12 points and 10 rebounds and Odom added 11 and 11 for the Lakers, who went 3-5 on their longest road trip of the season.

"It's been an eight-game road trip," Parker said. "We've been on the road for two weeks. It's about time for us to get home. People miss their families. We need home and get in our own beds, rest up a little bit, and come back and do it again on Tuesday."

The Cavaliers opened a 52-41 halftime lead as they got a huge lift from their bench. In addition to contributions from Pavlovic and Varejao, Donyell Marshall scored nine of his 11 points and Eric Snow - who recently lost his starting job to rookie Daniel Gibson - directed the offense.

"We've gotten great production from our bench," Brown said. "Eric Snow has done a terrific job, a great job, of running the ballclub when he comes off the bench. His leadership skills have been off the chart for us."

However, the Lakers got back into the game in the third quarter, when Bryant scored 11 points and James missed all five of his shots. Los Angeles took a 67-64 lead into the final period.

"We gave this game away," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We had a 12-point defensive quarter against Cleveland and played exceptional defense and kept them off the foul line and did the things we asked them to do in the locker room.

"Then in the fourth quarter, we came out and gave them a 35-point quarter, which is exactly the opposite type of defense."

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