The two-time defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers figure to have an easy time of it tonight when they attempt to finish off a three-game homestand in perfect fashion against a Cleveland Cavaliers team hoping to avoid its 17th consecutive road loss.
The Lakers improved to 2-0 on their current residency and won their fourth straight overall on Sunday when Kobe Bryant scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to help Los Angeles rout the New York Knicks, 109-87.
Pau Gasol had 20 points and 14 boards for the Lakers, who won their seventh consecutive game over New York. Andrew Bynum posted 18 points and seven rebounds before being ejected early in the fourth quarter for arguing a foul call.
"Not a well-played game on either side," said Los Angeles head coach Phil Jackson. "We had a good game plan inside and that's what we wanted. We executed okay, not great, but okay."
The Cavs, who are in the midst of a five-game road trip, fell to 0-2 on the trek and lost for the 20th time in 21 games on Sunday in the desert when Steve Nash notched his 19th double-double of the season with 20 points and 17 assists, as the Phoenix Suns topped Cleveland, 108-100.
Manny Harris led Cleveland with a game-high 27 points. Both J.J. Hickson and Antawn Jamison finished with 23 points for the Cavs, who have dropped their last 10 overall. In fact, Cleveland is now suffering its second 10-game skid in a 21-game span. The team hasn't dropped 11 in a row since a 15-game slide from Nov. 8-Dec. 2, 2002.
"I am extremely happy with the effort," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "I thought our guys played their butts off and played extremely hard."
Hickson grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds and Mo Williams dished out 12 assists for the shorthanded Cavs.
Already without guards Daniel Gibson (left ankle) and Anthony Parker (back), and forward Leon Powe (right knee surgery) Cleveland announced that center Anderson Varejao, the team's top interior defender, will miss the remainder of the season with a torn peroneus longus tendon in his right ankle.
The Cavaliers, who will finish their current trek with visits to Utah and Denver, have lost 16 straight away from the Forest City and are a dismal 3-17 overall on the road. The team's current road losing streak is its longest since a franchise-record 21-game hiccup to close out the 2002-03 season.
The Cavs actually swept the home-and-home series with the Lakers a year ago and have won seven of the past nine games in the series but things are obviously much different now since superstar LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.