Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/11/12
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers ran into one of the all-time greats. But not even Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant's season-high 42 points could ruin the return of Cavs guard Kyrie Irving on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena. Playing for the first time since Nov. 18, Irving had 28 points, six rebounds and a season-high 11 assists in the Cavs' exciting 100-94 victory over the struggling Lakers. He had missed the previous 11 games with a hairline fracture of his left index finger. "Obviously, it's good to have Kyrie back," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "He has a love for the game. He loves the competition. He likes being in the position to deliver. He's a special young man." Even Bryant had to agree with that statement. "Defensively, I tried to take a stand (against Irving)," Bryant said. "But he's a fantastic player. Fantastic." The Cavs (5-17) also got major production from shooting guard C.J. Miles, making his first start of the season. He score a season-high 28 points, converting 5 of 10 from the 3-point line. "He was taking good shots," Scott said. "He was not trying to do too much. When he plays that role, he can be a very effective player for us." Miles drove to the basket. When he was open on the perimeter, he took his shot. "I went out there and tried to stay within the system," he said. The Lakers (9-13) made several huge moves in the offseason, but they have yet to mesh on the court. They have lost seven of their last 10 games. "This is the most challenging stretch I've had during my 17 years," Bryant said. "It's baffling. "It's extremely frustrating. We just really have to correct the issues. We can be two completely different teams in both halves. It's like Jekyll and Hyde. I don't know if we're too old, and it takes us too long to get started or what. I don't know, I don't know. It's hard for me to put my finger on it." Bryant, who recently topped the 30,000-point mark of his career, connected on 16 of 28 attempts from the field, and 3 of 9 from behind the arc. He added five rebounds and two assists. Cavs forward Alonzo Gee had the unenviable task of guarding Bryant. When Gee picked up his fourth personal foul with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, it made his job even harder. Scott didn't take him out of the game because he had no other options to guard Bryant. "I was forced to fall back a little," Gee said. "My goal was to make it tough on him. He's one of the best in the game. You can't be too physical with him. You have to play solid defense and change it up." Scott said it's hard to say Gee played great defense when Bryant scored 42 points. "Zo did a terrific job," he said. "He challenged every shot." The Cavs led at halftime, 54-39. They almost gave it all back in the third quarter when they made just 5 of 22 shots from the field and were outscored, 23-14. Irving's 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left in the third quarter extended the Cavs' lead to 68-62. Lakers center Dwight Howard finished with 19 points and a game-high 20 rebounds. He made 13 of 22 free throws. "We played very uninspired basketball, offensively and defensively," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We play at a very slow pace and we struggle. Maybe it shifts over to defense. Maybe we're slow. Maybe we can't do it. ... It's my job to fix it -- and that's what I'll do." The Cavs also got 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists from center Anderson Varejao. Power forward Tristan Thompson pulled down 10 rebounds, while Gee added 17 points. The Lakers dominated the boards, 53-42. NOTES: The Cavs are now 7-1 in their last eight games against the Lakers at The Q. ... Cavs guard Daniel Gibson hyperextended his right elbow in the first half and didn't return. He said he'd play on Wednesday in Indiana. ... Scott's last year with the Lakers (1996-97) was also Bryant's rookie season. "I had a chance to be with that young man for a whole year," Scott said. "I talked to him on a day-to-day basis. No. 1, he was extremely talented. No. 2, he was very driven. "It was pretty simple when I asked him what he wanted to accomplish in this league. He said, 'I want to be the best player in the NBA.' At 18 years old. He has not wavered from that. I saw him from Day 1. I told him, 'If you keep working like this, you will be.' He will go down as one of the best players to ever play the game." ... Power forward Jordan Hill made his first start of the season for the Lakers. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said he hoped Hill cut down on opponent's second-chance points and improved his team's rebounding. Antawn Jamison had started the last four games. ... For the third time in three weeks, the Cavs will play four games in five nights. Scott said he's not doing anything special to keep his players fresh, other than perhaps 30-year-old Varejao. ... Ex-Cavs forward Antawn Jamison, who is a 14-year veteran, is wearing Scott's old No. 4 with the Lakers. "That number is sacred," Scott said. "That number should be given to veteran guys who play the game the right way."
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