On Tap: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Kurt —  March 19, 2006

Record: 37-29, 4th seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 108.8 (10th in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 106.6 (14th in the NBA)

Laker’s playoff chase: The Lakers are up 1.5 games against fading New Orleans and 2 games on Utah. The Lakers, by the way, still play the Hornets twice, including the last game of the season. Let’s hope that it doesn‘t come to that.

How Tired is Kobe? Even Phil Jackson was commenting on Kobe’s legs looking a little tired last game, with the note he is playing more than 40 minutes every game now. How bad has he been lately? In his last 10 games he has a true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt) of 51.5%, down from his season average of 55.4%. While he is still getting to the line (average of 8.8 free throws per game in the last 10, down from 10.3 on the season) his shooting when not at the line has dropped to 44.2% (eFG%), down from a season average of 48.4%.

The problem is, when can you rest him? This isn’t baseball, you can’t give him a day off. He has to play and has to be the focus for the Lakers to have a chance. You just hope he can fight through it and someone can relieve the burden, a little.

Hoops thought of the day: What helps your team win more, scoring 40 points or having a triple double? Well, in the last two years when a player has scored 40+, his team has won 64.2% of the time (with the Lakers, when Kobe has done it, 29 times, the Lakers win just 58.6% of the time). However, a triple double leads to a 73.2% winning percentage. Check that out and more at an interesting new piece up at 82games.com.

The Cavs: This is a team that really misses Larry Hughes, providing someone you had to respect on the perimeter besides LeBron James. While we’re talking LeBron, the franchise has been a little off his game of late, shooting 45.2% (eFG%) in the last 10 games, below his season average of 50.9%.

Last time these two played — a one-point Laker win in January — James had 28 but Zydrunas Ilgauskas was the Cav’s high scorer with 29 on 11 of 15. In that same game Drew Gooden added 15 and 11 boards, and he’s been playing better of late.

Key to a Lakers win: As always with this team, it starts with defensive effort. But there are some other things.

If you remember the end of the game the last time these two played, LeBron asked to cover Kobe in crunch time, and Kobe proceeded to hit his last three shots and secure the win. The last was a great shot over James and Ilgauskas. The Lakers need another big night from Kobe, no matter how tired he is, because the Cavs don’t have anyone who can stop him.

The Lakers also got a good offensive game but a weak defensive one from Chris Mihm last time. Kwame needs to reverse that — stop Ilgauskas and help out against a very good rebounding team. Points are just the cherry on top.

Two other Lakers who have been playing better of late also need to continue — Lamar Odom and Luke Walton. Both also played well when these two hooked up before.