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LAKERS 101, CLEVELAND 91

Lakers are the kings of every court

Lamar Odom steps up with 28 points, 17 rebounds as L.A. overcomes Kobe Bryant's illness to hand Cavaliers their first home loss, capping a 6-0 trip that ranks as perhaps the best in team history.

February 09, 2009|Mike Bresnahan

CLEVELAND — For once, Kobe Bryant wasn't the face of the Lakers.

He left the locker room half an hour after reporters cleared out, the blue hood of his sweat shirt pulled over his head as he walked gingerly, even unsteadily, down a hallway in the general direction of the team bus.

He was the only one not enjoying a 101-91 victory over Cleveland, an event that ended the Cavaliers' 23-game home winning streak and completed a trip that matched the most successful regular-season road swing in Lakers history.

Bryant experienced flu-like symptoms before, during and after Sunday's game at Quicken Loans Arena, but Lamar Odom came up with perhaps the healthiest game of his five-year Lakers career, posting season highs with 28 points and 17 rebounds as the Lakers finished a perfect six for six on their 11-day trip.

They stood tall against two of the league's best, going shove for shove with Boston on Thursday before gliding past Cleveland by winning the second half, 50-30.

Then they returned home after waiting for Bryant to emerge from a darkened trainer's room, where he received a second round of IV fluids, the first coming at halftime.

Whatever bug it was, it hit him hard, forcing him to miss a team meeting in the morning and making him physically ill right before the Lakers took the court for tipoff . . . and again at halftime . . . and again after scoring 19 points in 35 minutes, no shot bigger than the high-arching 13-foot turnaround over LeBron James with 2:49 left to play.

His only points in the fourth quarter gave the Lakers a 95-89 lead on the way to a season sweep of the Cavaliers, equaling the 2-0 mark they earned against the Celtics three days earlier. The Lakers hold the tiebreaker against both teams for home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, should they finish with identical regular-season records.

Bryant did not talk to reporters after the game, but others talked about him, and about Odom, the unquestioned star of the game.

The Lakers were listing in the first half, sputtering to a 61-51 deficit as their defense showed none of the toughness it had demonstrated in the Boston victory.

Then came the third quarter, and the start of the Odom hour.

He had 15 points and 10 rebounds in that quarter alone, pushing the Lakers quite single-handedly to an 82-77 lead.

For those who have never before seen a quarter like that from Odom, here it is: layup, rebound, rebound, rebound, rebound, rebound, rebound, layup, layup, rebound, five-foot jump shot, free throw, layup, rebound, rebound, layup, rebound, dunk.

It had been a while since Odom played with such abandon in a game of this importance. Even Lakers Coach Phil Jackson paused for six seconds when asked to recall the last time he had witnessed a similar outburst from Odom.

"That was one of the best games he's played with us," he said. "He's had some spectacular games, but that was a terrific game."

Odom made 13 of 19 shots, easily and confidently picking up the scoring chores from Bryant.

"We're playing for perfection," Odom said. "We're about focus, commitment, doing whatever it takes."

It took the Lakers an entire half before they committed themselves to defense, but it arrived with a wicked sense of urgency, holding Cleveland to 11 for 39 shooting (28.2%) in the second half.

James made only two of 13 shots in the second half, part of an unusual five-for-20 game. He had 16 points and 12 assists.

He was also the closest witness to Bryant's fourth-quarter turnaround jumper, forcing him to alter the trajectory into rainmaker territory.

"It was the ultimate form of leadership on his part," guard Derek Fisher said of Bryant. "He could have easily declined to play, period, or played in the first half and tried to keep us close and then sat out in the second half. He just kind of laid what he had out there and probably is going to pay for it for a couple days. It says a lot about him."

Cleveland fans also were probably sick to their stomachs.

The Cavaliers were more rested than the Lakers, having been off since Wednesday, and had been steamrollering teams by an average of 15.7 points at Quicken Loans Arena, becoming only the fourth team to start out 23-0 at home since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976.

They hadn't lost at home since a playoff game last April against Washington. Furthermore, the Lakers hadn't won in Cleveland since a 111-106 overtime victory in February 2004.

Handmade signs around the arena predicted the Lakers' demise: "Kobe -- Bow Down To King James" and, more succinctly, "Beat the Fakers."

It was a very real victory, in many ways, and it ended an almost surreal trip.

The only other Lakers team to go 6-0 on a trip was the 1999-2000 version, part of a 19-game winning streak on the way to the first of three consecutive championships.

That trip came against some of the league's weaker teams, while this one finished against the top two teams in the East.

Best trip in Lakers history?

"To play the two best teams in the league other than ourselves and to come out with wins, and to not slip up against the inferior teams . . . I think that arguably could be true," Fisher said.

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mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

A rolling Odom

Lamar Odom stepped up his game on the Lakers' six-game trip, particularly against Cleveland and Boston, averaging 15 points and 8.7 rebounds:

AT CLEVELAND

W, 101-91

28 points

17 rebounds

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AT BOSTON

W, 110-109 (OT)

20 points

6 rebounds

--

AT TORONTO

W, 115-107

13 points

6 rebounds

AT NEW YORK

W, 126-117

6 points

14 rebounds

--

AT MEMPHIS

W, 115-98

13 points

6 rebounds

--

AT MINNESOTA

W, 132-119

10 points

3 rebounds

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Clamping down

With Rambis in charge, the Lakers' defense is tightening up. PAGE 4

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