Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

Darius Soriano —  January 13, 2013

Records: Lakers 15-21 (11th in the West), Cavaliers 9-29 (15th in the East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 106.0 (6th in the NBA), Cavaliers 98.3 (28th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.0 (22nd in the NBA), Cavaliers 105.9 (28th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Robert Sacre
Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving, Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller
Injuries: Lakers: Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season), Steve Blake (out), Dwight Howard (game time decision); Cavaliers: Anderson Varejao (out), Daniel Gibson (probable)

The Lakers Coming in: First things first: Pau Gasol has not yet been cleared to play after suffering a concussion a week ago today. Gasol did some light shooting and work on the eliptical machine, but his recovery has not yet advanced to the basketball activities stage. Dwight Howard, however, is a game time decision with his “torn” labrum. Dwight insisted after his MRI that he’d be out around a week and today, like Gasol, is exactly 7 days since the injury occurred. If he’s able to go, we’ll only know right before the game as he’s set to be examined right before the game.

Speaking of injuries, a quick word on Jordan Hill and the end of his season due to his bad hip. Hill will be sorely missed. He may not be a star player, but he brought tangible and intangible positives to this team and there’s really no other bench player who can duplicate those things. His energy and hustle were key factors in every Laker win (and several comebacks that ended up falling short) while his work on the backboards and attentiveness on the back line of the defense stood out on a team that didn’t have enough of those traits. I wish him nothing but the best in his recovery and hope he comes back next season stronger than ever. For a player who was on the verge of being a lottery bust, Hill found a role as a valued contributor on a team that should be contending for a deep post season run. Quite the turnaround for him and I can only hope he can pick up where he left off when he gets healthy.

The Cavaliers Coming in: The Cavs have lost 3 of 5 and 6 of their last 10. They’re without big man Anderson Varejao for the next two months after he tore his quadriceps muscle and required surgery. Their two draft picks from this past June (Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller) have had up and down seasons and look to be a ways away from being consistently solid contributors. For the most part, the Cavs have been a team that plays hard and keeps games close only to lose because they lack depth and experience.

What — or I should say who — the Cavs do have is Kyrie Irving. Irving is one of the most fun players to watch on a night to night basis. His offensive game is as well rounded as they come and he seems to have that sixth sense that all great players have about what his team needs in the moment and then combines it with the skill level to provide it. There are few PG’s who can instantly make a team worth watching on any given night and Irving is one of them. So, if nothing else, the Cavs may only have 9 wins, but they still have Kyrie.

Cavaliers Blogs: Check out Cavs the Blog for good insight on this team.

Keys to game: After the Lakers got ransacked by the Thunder, Mike D’Antoni told his team that their season “starts on Sunday.” This statement, though mocked on twitter (what about the Lakers isn’t, though?) is essentially true. While we’ve been saying it for sometime, the Lakers really don’t have any more margin for error and a game against the Cavs (who compete, but are a bad team overall) needs to be a victory when the clock hits triple zeroes.

In order to get the win — and this will sound like a broken record — the Lakers really need to defend better than they have. Irving is their main weapon and he must be slowed down tonight. He is a killer in isolation and in the P&R, so getting him to give up the ball is going to be the Lakers’ best strategy. Blitz him off the P&R and show him the 2nd defender early on his drives and make him a passer. The Cavs don’t possess many other weapons on the wing, so the Lakers will need to help on Kyrie while cutting off passing angles into the paint to make their perimeter players hit jumpers.

Furthermore, when the ball is kicked out, the Lakers must still contest shots, but not in a way that surrenders more driving lanes that can break down their defense. The Lakers have had too many issues slowing down secondary dribble penetration actions this season and even against the Cavs they can be taken advantage of if they don’t show the needed discipline. Make them hit contested jumpers from range and live with the results. One player to look out for here is C.J. Miles. The last time these two teams met, Miles hit some early uncontested jumpers and found his rhythm the rest of the game. He must be marked closely and turned into a mid-range shooter where he’s run off the 3 point line but not allowed a direct line to the rim.

Offensively, the Lakers must take advantage of the fact that the Cavs don’t really possess a rim protector roaming their paint. Thompson and Zeller are not plus-level shot blockers and will allow opponents to convert at the rim when they get there (the Cavs are 2nd to last in the league allowing teams to shoot 62.8% within 5 feet). I’d prefer the Lakers attack off the dribble more rather than settling for the first open three pointer that presents itself. Those long jumpers will be available later in the clock against a Cavs D that has trouble defending as possessions are extended.

I’d also like to see Nash get more aggressive offensively, if only to make Irving work on that end of the floor. He’s not the most polished defender at this stage of his career and he can be taken advantage of on that end of the floor. Plus, attacking Irving has the dual benefit of making him expend energy that can potentially lead to him having a harder time producing on offense. Attack with Nash and let the offense flow through him more often and good things will happen.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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106 responses to Preview and Chat: The Cleveland Cavaliers

  1. HI Darius and Laker nation if the season starts tonight like D’Antoni said It has to start the on the defensive side of the ball we have to have an aggressive defensive mentality In order to turn the season around that means everybody KOBE NASH everyone NO EXCUSES

  2. If the season starts tonight that must mean the players didn’t get paid before. Also do we get a refund from Time Warner?

    Goal should be .500 by All-Star Game.

  3. Dont blame fish January 13, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    So its now ir never???? Anyway lets go lakers!

  4. Kobe Alert: KB was busy during the last game. He jumped into 8th place all time for FG’s; He climbed into 6th all time for FGAs; and he moved into 28th all time for games played. What’s next? He needs 2 more games to get into a three way tie for 26th there; He needs 107 minutes to get by the Big O for 14th on that list; He needs 34 FT’s to move into 3rd there, and 41 FTA’s to move into 6th on that list (Big O again in both cases). He is just 854 points behind Wilt, however his recent announcement that he is reconciling with his wife dramatically decreases the odds of catching Wilt in another category.

  5. LOL. Not buying that crap that the season starts now! It has ALREADY ended! The best this team can do with this roster is make an 8th seed in the playoffs, which will still be a failure. Make some moves around the Allstar break, then a new season can begin!

  6. Dwight in. Interesting to see Dwight with Clark. Don’t mess around with the Morris lineup Mike!

  7. Oh that was wicked Robert. Actually spend time with wilt in the old nightclub days. Nice guy.

  8. Lakers by 14. I promise?

  9. Nice to have Dwight Howard back, looking for a good game by the Lakers, the winning streak starts tonight.

  10. KOOO from the last thread:

    How does trading Pau reduce payroll Warren. What comes back must match. Unless they are all on last year contracts. That solves nothing and who cares! $200 mill or $60 mill it’s not our money. The issue is the personnel. Teams like Golden State and Denver seem to compete with half the payroll.

    This is exactly the line of thinking that I was afraid you’d say. You only care what the team brings to you and not how they do it. You only care what the team can do for you and not how you can possibly give them ideas how to make it better.

    Denver and GSW getting it done at half the payroll is another issue to tackle which involves rookie scale contracts. I would like to discuss that with you on another post if given the chance.

    As far as trading Pau is concerned is where I have the most to say…

    The NBA rules in trading require salaries of traded players to be within 15% of each other. Gasol has a trade kicker, but due to more governing rules, this trade kicker cannot be more than 3-4% since his salary is already in the maximum. All in all, Gasol can have an assumed value of 20M. 15% less that, in a perfect world is 17M this year.

    The savings I refer to as the main gist of the post is next year where we sorely need to reduce payroll. But as Darius has pointed out, management has probably factored in the fact that if we have 100M in payroll, then there’s 80M in taxes in store for us – and that isn’t even the repeater tax just yet.

    KOOO, if it is not in your best interest to care what the team does, then you’re sorely mistaken. You have to understand those things in order to know the line of thinking that they (FO) use with regards to how to make the team better moving forward. It must surprise you alot that Cuban, who has far deeper pockets than the Buss’ has realized that spending in the 100M of payroll and paying annual taxes between 30-60 million is just not the best way to compete right now.

    At the end of the day, its about doing the right thing at the right moment. Darius and I disagree on what we do moving forward.

  11. Clark!

  12. I would also like to point out that apart from Hill not being here, this would be the ideal Lakers lineup.

    Nash – Kobe – Metta – Clark – Dwight

    Clark and Dwight have the youth and athleticism to be effective in defending other teams.

  13. 1. Dwight just got t’d up on an epic flop – likely influenced by his non-stop complaining to the refs since the game started;

    2. Sadly I am stuck watching this game on a feed with the Cavaliers historically awful announcers – terrible.

  14. Good defensive energy so far! Teams seem to get away with fouling Howard like they used to do against Shaq. He just is so big that he doesn’t get the calls. Nice to see a mobile 4 playing in this offense…

  15. More on my Clarksonian thinking: EC has the length of a PF but he isn’t really oriented to be a pure banger. He’s an athlete – something we direly need to not get killed in transition. Hill is a little less athletic than he is but Hill is the PF/C type whereas Clark is the tweener SF/PF we need. Depending on the matchup, he and Metta can switch defensive assignments depending on who is needed where. This is very important to start the game because it allows us to take the lead and not play catchup all game long.

  16. I think If Clark can keep up even remotely this level of play, and actually has that range he has flashed, then Gasol willbe on his way out of town sooner rather than later. I think Pau is just out of place in today’s NBA unless he plays center, and we already have a Center. Hopefully we can somehow get some young athletic wings and a little cap relief, but that seems like a slim possibility. Then again, watching this hand, I’m reminded somebody Convinced the Cavaliers to take Walton

  17. Nash has run the offence the way I envisioned when we signed him so far this game.

  18. Does winning, or appear to be, cure everything.

    One thing good comes out of this, we realize that Clark is a better fit beside Dwight than any of the other big men we have on the roster. I’m with Cayucos that this game or the next couple would become the assurance/insulation to trade Pau.

  19. Why does Jamison keep spotting up for 3? His career 3 point shooting percentage is terrible. Last I checked he should be moving and cutting to the basket.

  20. I have an interesting question that perhaps someone here can answer: on the last laker play, Kobe shot the ball and Clark was called for offensive basket interference. Is that counted as a shot by Kobe or is the play negated by the foul call? I assume that it doesn’t count but I don’t know for sure. Darius? Other intelligent Basketball minds?

  21. I have an unprecedented 3 posts in moderation.

    That last play showed what Clark can do with our transition defense.

  22. @ Cayucos–

    I’m part of the “Pau is worth way more to LA than he is to anyone else” crowd–In fact, I’m holding out hope that Clark keeps playing this well, and they consider bringing Pau off the bench at the 5

  23. We’re up by 17 points after one quarter. Kobe took 6 shots officially, but one of them was waived away for basket interference. So, 7 shots in the first quarter which comes out to 28 for the game….his shot attempts are not the problem. The problems are:
    1- Defense.
    2- Role players have to hit open shots.
    3- Everyone has to hit open 3’s.

  24. Lakers with 10 assists on 13 FGs in first quarter, efficient.

  25. Very bad team out there for Lakers. Need one starter out there!

  26. Noted sharp shooters Walton and Jamison exchange 3 pointers.

  27. mindcrime-
    I don’t think bringing Pau off the bench will happen. That would mean that Jim Buss would be paying him 19 million to come off the bench…

  28. Mindcrime, when Pau comes back, he needs to accept that role of coming off the bench and getting the post position playing separate from Dwight. When Dwight sits at the 2-4 min mark of the 1st, Pau comes in and takes over the post position. Clark has just been a very good revelation.

  29. How has Earl Clark been banished to the bench this entire time!?

  30. Great position by Dwight, great find by Earl Clark!

  31. He is just 854 points behind Wilt, however his recent announcement that he is reconciling with his wife dramatically decreases the odds of catching Wilt in another category.


  32. 1. There is no way Pau is coming off the bench, you would be paying a guy of his caliber 19 million dollars to play 10-12 mins a game (the approx. amount of max. time you would have Dwight off the floor).

    2. One of our biggest problems this year has been as bad as our starters have been as a defensive unit, the bench unit is much, much worse – many games where we were in it until subs and then we quickly get down double digits. Clark’s D may help things there. In fact I would of loved to have seen a second unit with Hill at the 5 and Clark at the 4.

    Probably the best case scenario for the Lakers is that the Hawks start losing a bunch of games and they decide they want to trade Smith for Pau again…we should run at that deal…fast!

  33. @ KenOak and Joe:

    I’m not talking about coming off the bench just at the 5–I’m talking about him coming off the bench to cover the 5, and playing some time at the 4 as well, mostly with Dwight—I’m thinking in a 25-30 mpg type of role (kind of an LO amount of minutes)—I think part of Pau’s diminished effectiveness is at least in part due to just too many minutes…..

  34. Boy has Metta turned into a brickathon.

  35. Lakers have started to unravel in the last couple minutes.

  36. Watch Metta he is completely absent on both ends. Bench him.

  37. Great no time outs there Mike. Did you pay for your seat tonight?

  38. 5 straight turnovers letting the Cavs hang around. Make that 6 straight turnovers.

  39. ok what the hell is the problem with the nba when ti comes to assessing talent?! how is it possible guys like Lin and Clark only get their chance because of injuries and depleted rosters. There shouldn’t be so much LUCK involved in assessing talent. And no, its not just D’ntoni, look at Danny green – guy tahts a key piece for the spurs which until now was an absolute no body.

  40. I am watching the Lakers offence right now and the flow that was there earlier is completely gone. Looks to me like Nash is trying to force passes into Dwight, when he himself has been open 10-12 feet from the basket. He needs to shoot it in those situations to make the defence respect it enough that they stop all collapsing in the lane.

  41. Someone tell MDA that we all like Earl Clark, but he might be ready for his first break of the night—-he hasn’t been out of the game yet.

  42. i hope the lakers don’t collapse to this bad cavaliers team.

  43. I never really watched a lot of Howard’s play in Orlando. Has he always been this butter-fingered?

  44. Oh, we are calling holding jerseys now, cause Kyrie has had a handful of Kobe’s anytime he gets switched on to him since the game started.

  45. @Ken Howard has always been prone to being stripped, he likes the ball at his waist when he is making moves/gathering himself to dunk and obviously does not have the best hand strength – not that many people will hold on to the ball when an NBA player gets a good hard swipe downward on it. He needs to learn to keep the ball up high in those situations.

  46. Lakers lead by 12 but the visible play is no different than during the 6 game losing streak.

  47. Metta Zero points and 2 rebounds. Guess he wants to be at the Golden Globes. Coming off a 3 for 14 1st half last game. Maybe FO should consider his future?

    That’s for showing up there.

  48. @ Ken–That’s one of the things I miss about AB’s game vs D12—Drew was very disciplined about keeping the ball high–always above his shoulders and usually above his head–it’s the main reason we don’t seem to remember Drew getting stripped very often….because he didn’t

    As for Artest and talk of benching him–I think he’s played well enough this year (and hard enough for sure) to get a break here and there…you can argue he’s put forth the most consistent effort of anyone on the team

  49. Ok Mind but the guy is shooting under 20% from 3 last 7 games. Yet he keeps shooting. Just seems completely out of it tonight both ends. Maybe he is hurt.

  50. Turnovers allowed them back in the game. We should be up by @ least 20 pts. Kobe giving a valiant effort trying to keep up with Uncle Drew due to the fact that Nash can’t guard his position. Although he’s turning the ball over too much, we need to continue feeding Dwight in the 2nd half to take advantage of the mismatch and hope that he cuts down on those t.o’s.

  51. Nash contributed to the momentum change at the end of the 2nd period by dribbling too much. Kyrie Irving put Steve on lockdown and forced about 3 straight turnovers. Steve needs to realize he can’t beat some of these young points off the dribble.

    So good to see Dwight back sooner than expected. He looks good out there. Maybe the rest did his back some good, too.

  52. Loving the on and off ball work on defense by Kobe on Irving tonight.

  53. Must have had a late wake up call! MWP

  54. Kobe must’ve come across that article on SSR somehow.

  55. Metta kissing a lady’s hand after finishing on the break…what a character!

  56. Ron Artest adventures in fast breaks, gets the and 1

  57. @ KOOO

    I heard (or read) somewhere that he had a “groin contusion” (maybe it was here a few threads back) which, if true, sounds really horrible from a—um, er, well–“discomfort” standpoint—If Hill and Pau weren’t out, maybe he wouldn’t be playing so much–but in any event I’m still inclined to cut him a break, even though his shot hasn’t been as “on” lately

    In other news–thank god CLE can’t shoot

  58. Earl Clark looks good with the starting lineup. Maybe the best option when Pau returns is to continue Pau starting, but play Clark in the waning minutes of the game. Use Clark the same way we used to play Lamar off the bench and to finish games.

    Kobe is playing much better defense this game. THAT is the difference in the team’s defense.

    MDA has to take Clark out before he gets completely winded.

  59. sigh warriors cant even beat Denver -_- hopefully thunder wont choke vs Portland

  60. Luke was completely in the restricted area on that last ‘charge’.

  61. Nash has been WIDE open for 3’s at least 5 times tonight and has not shot one of them – he NEEDS to take one of those at least.

  62. Dwight Howard is one of the worst players with the ball in Laker history. 6 TOs again tonight, leads NBA centers, was he this way in Orlando? Between him and Kobe that is why they are one of worst in the NBA. 18 TO’s they will lose to most teams in any league. Nash is not much better by the way.

    Fundamentally bad basketball. Is it players or coaching?

  63. Nice to see Nash setting up Dwight for some easy scores. That’s what we’ve all been waiting for.

    Love Earl’s defense and rebounding. Kobe and Kyrie having a nice little battle. Sacre giving some decent minutes. Lakers have got to clean up the turnovers.

  64. Kobe is a better “on ball” defender than off the ball.

  65. Cleveland has had 19 extra possessions in this game thanks to 20 Laker turnovers and 15 Cleveland offensive boards. So this 80-63 lead is actually very impressive defence.

  66. I absolutely can’t stand watching Jamison play these days, his benching is about the only thing I agree with D’Antoni about – extremely lazy on D.

  67. Now we know why Kobe doesn’t play defense. Depending on the officiating crew he could be in foul trouble most nights, then we get Darius and Duhon.

    Earl Clark!!!!

  68. If Morris played D like that final play all the time he would get all the backup minutes behind Nash (on should, granted D’Antoni seems unusually attached to Duhon).

  69. KOOO…

    I’m just glad Howard is back. I’ll take him even with his shortcomings. He has some bad habits such as bringing the ball down in traffic, but I think the Lakers fast pace contributes a lot to the total turnover situation. Why are they constantly trying to run as an older team?

  70. So I see that it’s Meeks’ turn to get splinters in his backside….

  71. Interesting, Jodie Meeks on his way to a DNP-CD for the first time since Brown was fired, has MDA lost confidence in him in the same way Brown did? To be fair, Meeks tries hard but has been a liability on D and has not shot well in a long time.

  72. Where is Jodie Meeks?

  73. not a fan of the all scrub line up

  74. Caspi really sucks now, I remember when he looked like he would be a decent role player for some team, really awful to watch, but good for the Lakers.

  75. Earl the Pearl 2.0!! This man is playing like he likes getting a chance to play and wants to continue to play!!

  76. Couple of baskets by Clark and the Lakers have a 20 point 4th quarter lead.

  77. Duhon and Mirris together is like a bad D league nightmare. Good this is the 2nd worst team in league. Won’t work vs Bucks and Heat.

    Clark by the way is a much better player on both ends then Pau has been this year. Not even close. Best thing to happen this year.

  78. CHearn….

    I’m convinced that Danny Crawford has a personal beef with Kobe.

  79. That Earl Clark dude is starting to grown on me.

  80. That trade between Bynum-Dwight-Iggy showed that the Lakers got the Two best playersin that trade by getting Dwight Howard and Ear Clark. Man how can that be the Lakers are on a losing record when they have very goods guys on the team.

  81. Good to see E-Clark taking advantage of the opportunity. One of those young, energetic and athletic individuals that we need. Definitely a rotation player.

  82. Morris is playing outstanding D on Irving.

  83. Earl Clark representing Eddie Jones #6 very well.

  84. Why doesn’t Metta spot up INSIDE the arc sometime? He misses so many 3’s.

  85. Lakers are -10 in offensive boards and have 22 turnovers. Cleveland has had 84 possessions and are shooting 36.9% to our 61 possession and we are shooting 60.7%. With the exception of defensive rebounding the Lakers defence in the reason we have this huge lead.

  86. I need a Clark jersey

  87. LB

    Clark Griswald?

  88. Well the Lakers needed a W in the worst way so we’ll take it. Lots of positives. They have got to do better with the turnovers. MD’A needs to consider slowing the pace. What’s the rush?

  89. Lakers better not blow those tacos!

  90. One victory = Relief, end of a rough stretch, and of course Free Tacos at the Jack in the Box. My, it’s been awhile since we’ve uttered those words since Dec. 28th. Hopefully, they string together a string of wins but a lot of work (Turnovers, rebounds, etc) needs to be done.

  91. Kenny T-Crawford must have a vendetta against Kobe. Also, totally agree Metta should get down in the post a couple of times to see the ball go through the hoop.

    Earl Clark is tantalizing thus far this season.

    Dwight looks pretty mobile. Hopefully, when Pau returns he’ll be reinvigorated as well.

    Lakers 1-0 this season.

  92. Kenny T and Chearn-

    Crawford is an outstanding official in this league and has never had a vendetta against any player ever….

  93. If we shoot 50% from the 3, we’ll win most contests. Unfortunately this is likely not the norm, so we’re not out of the woods yet.

  94. finally! relief
    @Glove -nice nod to Eddie (& E. Clark)

  95. At this point, ANY win feels good

  96. Best stat of night: Kobe Bryant 27minutes.

  97. Jayz – Agreed. The minutes (or lack of such) for Kobe and Nash are indeed the best stat of the night.

  98. Well its about time……we finally get a freaking win this year!

  99. When was the last time Kobe sat out the 4th quarter? great win by Lakers.

  100. KenOak…

    Sorry, don’t share your opinion about Mr. Crawford. I’ve seen him ignore blatant fouls on Kobe too many times for me to agree with you.

  101. @Kenny T lol! That was pure sarcasm man! Remember how Crawford had a feud with Tim Duncan? He is the worst!

  102. Wrong Crawford guys.

    Joey (bald dude, terrible temper) was the one who threw the tantrum against Duncan.

    The one tonight is Danny Crawford. Who is milder in nature but just as experienced an official.

  103. Oops Simonoid! Thanks for clearing that up… Yeah I meant Joey. He definitely has/had something against Tim Duncan.

  104. @KenOak…OK,didn’t read between the lines! By the way, both Crawfords are bad.