In a matchup featuring the best team from each conference, James looks to help lead the Cavaliers to their sixth straight win over Bryant and the Lakers as they open a four-game road trip Monday at Staples Center.
After falling to Boston in the East semifinals last season, James has Cleveland (31-7) poised to make a run for its first NBA title. The Cavaliers, who have not won a division title since 1975-76, have a 9 1/2-game lead over second-place Detroit in the Central Division, and are competing with Orlando and Boston for the best record in the East.
Los Angeles (31-8) once again looks like it might control home court throughout the Western Conference playoffs, as it has a five-game lead atop the conference. The Pacific Division-leading Lakers lost to Boston in last season's finals and are seeking their first title since 2001-02.
Bryant, who received his first MVP award last season, recorded his 15th career triple-double and first since April 1, 2005 his last time out.
The 10-time All-Star had 28 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in the Lakers' 109-103 loss to the Magic on Friday, but missed two jumpers in the waning moments.
The Lakers have lost two straight games after winning 10 of 11. They have not dropped three in a row since Jan. 23-27 of last season, which included a loss to Cleveland.
"We have to back it up and stop this bleeding right now," Los Angeles coach Phil Jackson said.
Facing the Cavs might not be the answer, though.
Cleveland has won five straight games over the Lakers since a 99-98 loss on Jan. 12, 2006 -- the longest win streak by the Cavs in the series.
In their last meeting on Jan. 27, Cleveland won 98-95 at Los Angeles, behind James' 41 points and nine rebounds. James, the league's second-leading scorer (27.8 points per game), is averaging 37.3 points in his last three games versus the Lakers.
Bryant, who is third in the league in scoring (27.2 ppg), had 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in last season's loss to the Cavs at Staples Center. He is averaging 32.4 points during the Lakers' five-game losing streak to Cleveland.
The Cavs are coming off Friday's 92-78 win over New Orleans, as James bounced back from one of his worst outings of the season.
After he went 8-of-28 and had eight turnovers in Thursday's 102-93 overtime loss to Chicago, James finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists on Friday.
The four-time All-Star has led the Cavs in scoring, rebounding and assists in three straight games -- a franchise first. He also became the first NBA player to do it since Bryant last season.
"We went out and executed it," said James, who has averaged 29.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 8.0 assists in the last three games. "It's always good before you go on the West Coast to get a win."
Cleveland has had no trouble defending its home court -- going 20-0 at Quicken Loans Arena -- but has been vulnerable on the road. The Cavs are 11-7 on the road, and have lost three of their last four away from Cleveland.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are 20-3 at home, but have split their last four games at Staples Center, including Friday's loss to Orlando.
Los Angeles boasts the league's top-scoring offense (107.6 ppg), but it may have trouble against the league's stingiest defense.
The Cavs, who limited the Hornets to just 37.3 percent shooting, are first in the league in field goal defense (41.9 percent) and scoring defense (89.0 ppg). Cleveland is 15-0 when holding opponents to less than 40.9 percent shooting and 25-2 when holding opponents to fewer than 95 points.