Cleveland Cavaliers Preview: Kyrie Irving returns for matchup with Lakers

Nov 17, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving (2) drives to the basket against Dallas Mavericks small forward Shawn Marion (0) in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17) will play their second home game in a row for the first time since the very beginning of the season when the Los Angeles Lakers (9-12) pay a visit to Quicken Loans Arena on Tuesday night. The Lakers, who will be the 10th Western Conference opponent that Cleveland has faced this season, come into the game with a lot of question marks, which we will get to a little bit later. The game will tipoff at 7 p.m. and can be watched on Fox Sports Ohio and listened to on WTAM 1100. Here are some stats that will get you prepared to watch the game tonight:

Cavaliers (4-17, 2-6 home)

Offensive Efficiency – 97.3 (27th)

Pace – 94.7 (13th)

Turnover Ratio – 14.3 (17th)

Effective Field Goal Percentage – 45.8 (27th)

Defensive Efficiency – 106.5 (28th)

Average Points – 94.3 (22nd)

Average Rebounds – 42.7 (11th)

Average Assists – 19.4 (28th)

Average Points Allowed – 100.5 (23rd)

Lakers (9-12, 2-6 away)

Offensive Efficiency – 106.4 (6th)

Pace – 96.5 (4th)

Turnover Ratio – 15.0 (29th)

Effective Field Goal Percentage – 51.3 (6th)

Defensive Efficiency – 101.5 (15th)

Average Points – 101.8 (7th)

Average Rebounds – 45.9 (2nd)

Average Assists – 21.1 (19th)

Average Points Allowed – 98.7 (17th)

Dec 4, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Los Angeles Lakers power forward Antawn Jamison (4) lays up a basket during the second quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Before Monday one of the bigger Cleveland Cavalier headlines going into their matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night was the return on Antawn Jamison, who is averaging 8.0 points and 4.8 rebounds off the bench. Now, with Kyrie Irving back in the starting lineup after being out three weeks with a fractured left index finger, the media will key in on Irving’s relationship with Kobe Bryant. Over the summer, while Team USA was preparing for the 2012 Olympic games, Irving, a member of the Select Team, challenged the five-time NBA champion to a game of 1-on-1. Kobe was so confident in his shot and Kyrie’s penetrable defense that he put $50,000 on the yet-to-be-played game.

On Tuesday we won’t be able to see this pickup game play out the way it was, and still might, supposed to, but Irving on Bryant and vice versa will be a sight that onlookers at the Q will be sure to look out for in the sophomore’s return to the court. 11 games have passed since Irving has taken a seat on the bench, and no better time than now for him to return to redeem himself from last year’s defensive performance (Kobe scored 42 points in Los Angeles) and get the Cavs back on the right track.

The Cavaliers will still be without the Big Boi of Cleveland’s backcourt, as Dion Waiters has not been cleared to return to the court just yet. That means Cleveland will only be getting back 22.9 points of the 38.1 points per game average that the Wine and Gold have been missing on the offensive end. There were three or four games during the Cavs’ grueling 11-game stretch that I thought they could have won if Irving had indeed been in the lineup.

However, if Cleveland stands any chance of bringing down the highly-talked about and struggling Lakers, who are just 1-4 over their last five contests, they need to win the battle of the boards. Los Angeles, with their new center Dwight Howard, averages the second most rebounds in the NBA. The Cavs are fourth in the league in opposing rebounds (48.6 allowed per game), so it will be a good matchup in the paint with the very energetic Anderson Varejao and the always-troublesome Howard.

This game will be won in the paint. Whether or not Kyrie can get back to his old ways and attack the Laker offense and Andy can fight off Howard for second-chance points or to prevent Los Angeles from transitioning from a defensive rebound to a score will determine which team comes away with a win. With the Lakers getting off to a slow start, I don’t see this as being completely out of Cleveland’s control. This would be a perfect chance to end their current five-game skid; against a team that is struggling to find its identity.

Topics: Anderson Varejao, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyrie Irving

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