LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mike Brown was unable to win an NBA title with LeBron James during his five seasons as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If Kobe Bryant can somehow manage to keep playing as well as he has lately, Brown might have a good chance to win a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.
After back-to-back 40-point performances, Bryant looks to stay hot as the Lakers try for a fifth consecutive victory Friday night when Brown faces the Cavaliers for the first time since they fired him two years ago.
Brown went 272-138 in Cleveland, guiding the club to the NBA finals in 2007 and the Eastern Conference finals in 2009. However, after the Cavaliers were upset by Boston in the 2010 semifinals, he was let go. Brown spent last season as a studio analyst for ESPN, then was named coach of the Lakers in May after Phil Jackson retired.
Brown’s tenure in Los Angeles got off to a rough start when the Lakers (8-4) dropped their first two games, but they have since won eight of 10.
Despite a sore wrist, Bryant has been the major reason for his team’s turnaround, averaging a league-high 30.3 points. He’s averaged 36.7 on 50.3 percent shooting in the last six.
One night after posting a season-high 48 in a 99-83 home win over Phoenix on Tuesday, Bryant scored 40 in the Lakers’ 90-87 overtime victory at Utah.
“You know Kobe’s going to get a volume of shots; he’s going to get the ball all night long and you have to trust that you have good help behind you and make it tough for him,” Utah guard Raja Ball said. “He’s going to score his points. Scorers in this league, I’ve always subscribed to this theory, they’re going to get their points… you just have to make him take a field goal percentage to your liking.”
Bryant last scored 40 or more in three straight games during a five-game run March 16-25, 2007. He averaged an astonishing 53.6 points during that span.
He totaled 30 points on 38.2 percent shooting while the Lakers split their two meetings against the post-James Cavaliers in 2010-11.
He had 13 and was barely needed in Los Angeles’ 112-57 rout of Cleveland at the Staples Center on Jan. 11, 2011. The Cavaliers shot 29.9 percent and did not score more than 16 points in any quarter of that contest.
Times appear to be better for Cleveland (5-5), which avoided a third straight defeat with a 101-90 win at Phoenix on Thursday to improve to 2-3 on a seven-game trip.
“It was a good win for us,” coach Byron Scott told the Cavaliers’ official website. “I thought we did some really good things.”
The Cavaliers are a much different team than the one Brown coached in his final season. There’s no James or Shaquille O’Neal, but 2011 No. 1 pick Kyrie Irving and veteran Antawn Jamison have provided a more competitive product than the club that finished 19-63 last season.
Irving had 26 points with six assists and scored 12 straight points during one stretch of the first half Thursday. Jamison added 23 after scoring 22 during a 113-105 loss at Utah on Tuesday.
Irving has averaged 22.3 points in his last three games.
At 3-4 away from home, Cleveland is four shy of matching its entire road win total from 2010-11.
Updated January 13, 2012