Few would’ve thought the Lakers would finish off their challenging six-game road trip without a loss when rising center Andrew Bynum went down with a torn medial collateral ligament early in Game 2.
But the Lakers pulled it off, putting together a stunning one-two combination at the end: winning in Boston on Thursday, then winning in Cleveland on Sunday.
The Lakers swept both Eastern Conference powers for the season, meaning that the Lakers have home-court advantage in the NBA Finals if they finish the regular season tied with either team.
“We played the kind of basketball on the road that you have to play,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Our defense stood up and played real down the stretches, and that was important.”
Cleveland scored just 14 fourth-quarter points against the Lakers, who began the trip with victories in Minnesota, Memphis, New York and Toronto.
It matched a 6-0 trip the Lakers put together in 2000 with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal marching toward their first NBA championship.
Lakers 101, Cavaliers 91: Lamar Odom stepped it up with a season-high 28 points to go with a season-high 17 rebounds and two assists. It was a statement game for Odom, who has been disappointing this season for the Lakers in a reserve role before becoming a starter recently in light of Andrew Bynum’s knee injury.
• The Lakers became the first road team this season to win at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena in 24 attempts. The Cavaliers were the fourth team since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77 to start a season 23-0 at home.
• The Lakers made a trade Saturday, shipping out forward Vladimir Radmanovic to Charlotte for forward Adam Morrison and guard Shannon Brown. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said it was done because Radmanovic had fallen out of the rotation, Morrison and Brown offer the promise of youth and the Lakers gain some future financial flexibility.
Quote To Note: “We’re just constantly working at it.—Lakers guard Derek Fisher, on the Lakers’ recent defensive improvement.
Rotation: Starters—Point guard Derek Fisher, Shooting guard Kobe Bryant, Small forward Luke Walton, Power forward Lamar Odom, Center Pau Gasol. Bench—Guard Jordan Farmar, Forward Trevor Ariza, Guard Sasha Vujacic, Forward Josh Powell, Center Chris Mihm.
• G Kobe Bryant was stricken with a stomach virus Sunday and needed two treatments of intravenous fluids—one at halftime and one after the Lakers’ victory in Cleveland. He had 19 points in the game.
• F Luke Walton’s role on the team has been solidified with the trade of Vladimir Radmanovic, who has alternated with Walton as the starting small forward at times this season.
• C Chris Mihm was cited by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak as one reason the Lakers aren’t planning to make a trade for a big man in the wake of Andrew Bynum’s knee injury.
• G Kobe Bryant (finger) is playing despite recently dislocating his right ring finger.
• C Andrew Bynum (knee) is projected to be out until at least late March because of a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee suffered Jan. 31.