Kobe Bryant scored 20 points despite severe pain from a dislocated finger and outshined LeBron James in a showdown of superstars on Monday to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past Cleveland 105-88.
In what could be a preview of June’s NBA Finals, the Western Conference-leading Lakers snapped a two-game losing skid and knocked the Cavaliers from the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Bryant, who had 12 assists, dislocated his right ring finger less than two minutes into the game while trying to poke the ball away from James.
Bryant grabbed his hand and the Lakers called a timeout. After going to the bench, the finger was popped back into place and Bryant returned to the court.
“That might have been the worst pain I ever played with,” Bryant said. “It was really painful. I’m glad I got through it.”
While he admitted the injury might cause him some problems until he adjusts to the pain, Bryant did play through the pain against James, one of the league’s top players, and excelled.
“I’m not concerned,” Bryant said. “I played the second half with it. I will play the rest of the season with it. It was just really painful. I might have some trouble with my shot until I get used to it.”
James scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds as he and Bryant, last season’s NBA MVP, spent most of the game guarding each other.
“King James” hit only nine of 25 shots from the field and surrendered six turnovers to the Lakers.
Spanish big man Pau Gasol scored 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who also had 14 points each from Andrew Bynum and Sasha Vujacic.
Cleveland led 50-49 at halftime but the Lakers surged ahead 75-66 entering the fourth quarters and built the lead as large as 91-73 before the Cavaliers rallied. Bryant scored seven points in an 11-1 Lakers run.
James tipped-in a basket to lift Cleveland within seven points with 3:32 to play but Derek Fisher hit a jumper and Trevor Ariza sealed the victory with eight points in a row for the Lakers, who hit 44-of-84 shots on the night.
Maurice Williams added 16 points for Cleveland, which had 10 points and 12 rebounds from Anderson Varejao.
The Lakers improved to 32-8 while Cleveland fell to 31-8. Both trail Orlando, 33-8, in the race for the NBA’s best record and a home-field edge throughout the NBA playoffs. Reigning champion Boston is next at 34-9.
HORNETS 103, PACERS 100
At New Orleans, Chris Paul capped a 27-point performance with an off-balance 3-pointer as time expired, lifting the Hornets to a 103-100 victory over Indiana on Monday.
Peja Stojakovic hit five 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 26 points for New Orleans. The Hornets started the game without David West (back) and lost center Tyson Chandler (left ankle) late in the second quarter.
Indiana’s Danny Granger scored 30 points, including a tying 3 with 2.5 seconds left.
TRAIL BLAZERS 102, BUCKS 85
At Portland, Oregon, Greg Oden had a career-high 24 points and added 15 rebounds as Portland downed Milwaukee.
LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers.
PISTONS 87, GRIZZLIES 79
At Memphis, Tennessee, Allen Iverson scored 27 points to help Detroit beat Memphis and end their longest losing streak in five seasons.
Rasheed Wallace scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half to help bring Detroit’s five-game skid to an end.
O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 15 points apiece and rookie center Marc Gasol had 12 points and 13 rebounds.