They sure didn't get the show they expected.
Shawn Kemp and Brevin Knight scored 20 points each and Cleveland survived without a true center to guard Shaquille O'Neal Thursday night as the Cavaliers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 100-93.
Wesley Person added 18 points for the Cavaliers, who haven't had a legitimate center since losing 7-foot-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas to a season-ending injury and trading away Vitaly Potapenko.
O'Neal had a field day down low, bullying underneath to match a season-high with 37 points and 19 rebounds for the Lakers, who were playing their third game without forward Dennis Rodman.
Rodman left the team to attend to personal matters before the start of Los Angeles' six-game road trip, and the Lakers missed his presence on the boards against the smaller Cavs. Without much help, O'Neal was forced to carry the Lakers by himself.
"That's just playing smart," said O'Neal, who at time had three Cavs draped over his arms as he tried to maneuver in the lane. "When you're playing against a team that doesn't have that many big people, you've got to back it in and back it out and be smart with it. Everybody has to be on the same page, everybody just has to play team ball."
That's what the Cavs did, getting solid minutes from 10 players. Cleveland's reserves outscored Los Angeles' 27-12.
"I really liked the bench, enthusiasm and the pulling together," said Cavs coach Mike Fratello. "You could just feel everybody pulling for each other."
The Cavs have had trouble drawing big crowds this season, but that problem could go away with a few more performances like ths.
"Tonight was a different atmosphere," Person said. "If we can continue to get this crowd support, it's going to be a great building for us. It's a big building and it's a loud building. And if we can continue to keep on these winning streaks, then hopefully we can have the sixth man."
Glen Rice had 24 points in his second start since joining Los Angeles and Kobe Bryant added 14 on just 4-of-12 shooting. Bryant appeared to be affected by rolling his left ankle in the first half.
O'Neal's dunk off a feed from Rick Fox brought the Lakers within 79-77 with 7:45 left, but the Cavs answered with a 10-4 run to take control. Kemp scored six points in the spurt with two coming on a sweet runner in the lane over O'Neal.
Knight made all four of his field-goal attempts banking one in from up top and scored eight points in the third quarter as the Cavs took a 75-67 lead into the fourth.
Person made five of the Cavs' five 3-pointers in the first half, and his 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left gave Cleveland a 53-46 halftime lead.
Derek Anderson, who missed Cleveland's game Tuesday night with a bruised knee, scored nine points in the half, including a spectacular basket.
After spinning on Bryant in the lane, Anderson ducked under Robert Horry and hung in the air long enough to flip the ball in high off the glass.
Cleveland elected to double-team O'Neal almost every time the Lakers center touched the ball, and despite the extra attention, O'Neal still managed 16 first-half points.
Notes: Lakers spokesman John Black said Rodman spoke with executive vice president Jerry West and general manager Mitch Kupchak earlier in the day, and was "making progress working out the personal issues" which led to him leaving the team. The Lakers would not reveal Rodman's whereabouts, but earlier Thursday Rodman's newly hired publicist called a report saying the forward was in Cancun, Mexico, "completely false." ... "Whammer" the Cavs' mascot sported several colorful wigs in Rodman's absence. ... The Lakers are 10-2 under coach Kurt Rambis. ... The Cavs have won their last 23 in a row when scoring 100 points or more.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed