LAST TIME OUT
The Cavaliers are finally home off a disappointing road swing in which they lost all three games by an averaged of over 20 points. Cleveland’s losing streak was extended to five games following Monday’s 124-107 defeat in Dallas. The Cavs’ shoddy defense was again on display as they allowed the Mavericks to shoot 55 percent from the field and convert on 12-of-26 attempts from distance. During the Cavs’ losing streak, they’ve allowed their opponents to score over 109 points per game. Against Dallas, Kyrie Irving led seven Cavs in double figures with 27 points and eight assists, while Luol Deng contributed 18 points. Jarrett Jack started alongside Irving again and posted 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting with eight helpings. Anderson Varejao returned to play 25 minutes after missing three games due to a hyperextended knee.
THIS TIME UP
The Opponent: Los Angeles Lakers
Lakers Record: 16-31 overall, 8-18 on Road
Tipoff: 7:00 p.m. ET – Quicken Loans Arena
Where you can watch: Fox Sports Ohio
Where you can listen: WTAM 1100
Previous Matchup: Cavs 120, Lakers 118 on Jan. 14, 2014
Opponent’s Blog: Lake Show Life
Lakers: Kobe Bryant OUT (Knee), Pau Gasol OUT (Groin), Jodie Meeks OUT (Ankle), Steve Nash DOUBTFUL (Hamstring, Rest), Jordan Hill QUESTIONABLE (Head), Steve Blake PROBABLE (Elbow), Chris Kaman PROBABLE (Knee)
Getting Back On Track
The Los Angeles Lakers are a bad, injury-riddled team and a perfect cure for the downtrodden Cavaliers. Los Angeles likely will be without its three highest paid players in Bryant, Gasol and Nash along with starting shooting guard Meeks and key reserve big man Hill. Cleveland must take advantage of the Lakers’ injury woes and pounce on them early. LA is coming off a loss in Minnesota last night and will be vulnerable if the Cavaliers are aggressive, specifically on the offensive end. Cleveland must capitalize on this opportunity and stop the slide tonight.
Guarding the Three
The Lakers take 24.8 treys per game tied for fourth most in the league, shooting at a 36.9 percent clip, tenth in the NBA. Nick Young can go off at any time and even without Nash and Meeks, Coach Mike D’Antoni will make sure the team has shooters on the perimeter. Rookie Ryan Kelly is dangerous as a ‘stretch four’ while former lottery picks, forward Wesley Johnson and point guard Kendall Marshall, aren’t afraid to hoist from deep averaging a combined 7.3 three attempts per game. The three-point line is the great equalizer therefore Cleveland must be explicitly aware of where the shooters are. If the Cavs allow one or more of these guys to find their stroke, the Lakers could easily steal this game.
Attack LA’s Interior Defense
The Lakers are in the bottom five in defensive efficiency, allowing over 106 points per 100 possessions. Without Gasol, they lack any semblance of a rim protector. Kelly is not quick on his feet and will have trouble battling with Tristan Thompson on the boards. Robert Sacre, the man more well known for his over the top bench celebrations, yes that Robert Sacre, will be the team’s starting center (yikes!). Irving and Waiters must exploit this and live in the paint tonight.
The Lakers are missing countless key components and on the second night of a back-to-back, I think they are running on empty. However, D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense can strike at any time especially with the Cavs playing awful defense lately. With all that said, the Cavs are clearly more comfortable playing at the Q and I think they’ll respond with a better effort, ending the losing streak in a fast paced, relatively high scoring affair.