Records: Lakers 38-18 (3rd in West), Cavaliers 9-46 (last in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (2nd in NBA), Cavaliers 101.1 (last in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.2 (11th in NBA), Cavaliers 112.8 (last in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Cavaliers: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Christian Eyenga, Antawn Jamison, JJ Hickson
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes & Theo Ratliff (out); Cavaliers: Leon Powe & Anderson Varejao (out), Daniel Gibson (doubtful)
The Lakers Coming in: Losers of two in a row, the Lakers momentum has ground to a halt. What started out as a very promising road trip has now gone a bit sour with the lackluster play in Orlando and the horrid affair in Charlotte. And while I think some good old fashioned rest can help this team (the All-Star break can’t get here soon enough), I think we should also acknowledge that the team is still up and down in too many areas and struggles to put together complete performances on both sides of the ball consistently. On too many nights solid defense isn’t supported by cohesive offense and vice versa.
The players understand this too. None would claim this team is close to where it needs to and they’d quickly admit that much work needs to be done. Hopefully the time off between tomorrow and Tuesday will recharge the players’ batteries and the eventual return of Barnes (hoping to start practicing on Monday) will help settle the rotation back again.
The Cavaliers Coming in: Nine wins in fifty-five tries pretty much speaks to the state of this franchise. They’re last in both offensive and defensive efficiency, have struggled through countless injuries, suffered a record breaking 26 game losing streak, and have even inspired a website dedicated to answering whether they won last night. All around bad times for the Cavs.
The did win a game recently, however. Downing the Clips in overtime, the Cavs broke their streak of losses this past Friday. Yeah! Then on Sunday they gave the Wizards their lone road win of the season. Ugh. Such is this season for the Cavs. My sympathies to Coach Scott, the Cleveland fans, and the players that are undoubtedly trying but just not good enough to compete with most teams for a full 48 minutes each night.
Cavaliers Blogs: Despite their losing ways, John Krolik continues to provide sharp analysis on this team over at Cavs The Blog.
Keys to game: Let’s keep this simple: the Lakers just need to show up and care. The Cavs are the worst team in the league and it’s not close. But they will play hard and the fact that the Lakers humilated them in their last match up will surely be on the minds of the home team. If the Lakers think they’re just going walk in and the Cavs forfeit, they’ll be mistaken. The Lakers need to play hard and execute their sets on both sides.
On offense that means going inside consistently. Jamison and Hickson are no match for Gasol and Bynum and the Lakers need to exploit these match ups all game. Kobe can get in the fun too by attacking Anthony Parker in isolations at the elbow. As for the other Lakers, just pass to these guys, cut hard, screen hard, and then flow into open space to capitalize on over compensations by a defense that is outmanned.
Defensively, the return of Mo Williams means the Cavs have their offensive catalyst back. The Lakers will be tested with Williams/Hickson pick and rolls and Williams/Jamison pick and pops. They’ll also see plenty of Williams in isolation at the top of the key both in the half court and when he pushes the ball in transition. Defending the paint will be important against his drives and on big man dives but the Lakers also can’t get lazy in rotating back to the perimeter when Williams, Jamison, and Parker spot up around the arc. When given time these guys can knock down the open jumper. Rotate and close out hard and funel offensive players to Bynum and Gasol.
Tonight, there are no excuses. I can see this game being close early but every single team in the past 50 some odd days that’s found themselves in a close game with the Cavs has found a way to turn up their intensity and give the Cavs an L (save the Clippers on Friday). I fully expect the Lakers to do the same. Rarely do I say that a win should be a given but tonight is one of those nights. Despite a 4-0 start to this trip, this roadie will be a complete failure if this team doesn’t leave Cleveland with a W. Just go get it and then take a vacation until next Monday when practice resumes.
Where you can watch: 4:30pm start time out West on KCAL. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.