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Brown, Lakers face Cavs at Staples Center

Mike Brown could never get it done with LeBron James in Cleveland but Kobe Bryant seems intent on giving the new Lakers mentor a shot at the brass ring in Hollywood.

Riding back-to-back 40-point performances Bryant will attempt to keep the good times rolling as Brown faces the Cavs for the first time since they fired him two years ago.

Brown, with James' help, compiled a brilliant 272-138 record in Cleveland and piloted the club to the NBA Finals in 2007 as well as the Eastern Conference finals in 2009. Failing to win the NBA championship was a bitter disappointment for the organization, however, and after the Cavs were stunned by Boston in the 2010 East semifinals, Brown was jettisoned.

The veteran mentor spent last season as a studio analyst for ESPN, before being tabbed by the Lakers as the replacement for the retiring Phil Jackson.

Brown's tenure in LA got off to a rocky start when the Lakers lost their first two games, but they have since rebounded nicely, winning eight of 10, the latest of which came on Wednesday in Utah.

One day after pouring in 48 against Phoenix, Bryant netted 40 points as Los Angeles escaped Salt Lake City with a 90-87 overtime win over the Jazz. The future Hall of Famer has scored 30-plus points in five of his last six games and now has an amazing 109 career 40-point performances.

Pau Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds while Andrew Bynum finished with 12 points and nine boards for the Lakers, who avoided an 0-4 start on the road for the first time since 1995-96 -- Bryant's senior year of high school.

"We were bound to get one eventually," Bryant said of the road win. "It felt good to get one here. This is a very tough place to play and it was a huge test for us."

Cleveland, meanwhile, is no powerhouse now but has become competitive again for the first time since losing Brown and James thanks in large part to the play of rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 overall pick in last June's NBA Draft.

The Cavs improved to 2-3 on a season-long, seven-game road trip on Thursday in Phoenix when Irving outdueled veteran Steve Nash. The Duke product scored a game-high 26 points and Antawn Jamison added 23, as Cleveland bested the Suns, 101-90.

"It was fun playing against a great point guard such as Steve Nash," Irving said. "It's a little surreal."

Boobie Gibson chipped in 10 points and Anderson Varejao had eight points and 17 rebounds for the Cavs, who will finish their long trek in Charlotte on Monday.

"It was a good win for us," coach Byron Scott told the Cavaliers' website. "I thought we did some really good things."

Cleveland has won three of its past four meetings with the Lakers, who are 7-1 at Staples Center this season.