Records: Lakers 11-43, Last in the West; Cavs 37-14, 1st in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 97.2, 29th in NBA; Cavs 106.5, 4th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 109.9, Last in the NBA; Cavs 100.8, 8th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert (hoping for this, though!)
Cavs: Kyrie, Shumpert, LeBron, Love, Mozgov
Keys to game: I’m skipping the formalities and getting right to it today. The Lakers have been playing well and the Cavs, after disposing of David Blatt and hiring Tyron Lue are 7-3 in their last 10 games. The firing came as a surprise, but when reading the postmortems from those close to the situation, there was clearly a disconnect between Blatt and the players, one that the FO thought needed addressing right away. That change has been made and now there aren’t many (any?) excuses left for this team to not accomplish their goal (unless you count not being as good as the Warriors as an excuse).
Regarding today’s game, it’s easy to talk about the X’s and O’s and matchups. LeBron, Kyrie, and Love will all see plenty of time against Kobe, Russell, and Randle. Those matchups alone are worth the price of admission and I’ll be interested in seeing how the Lakers side of these battles fare. I expect the Cavs to win these head to heads, but seeing both sides go at it will at least be fun.
The bigger story, though, isn’t these match ups and instead shifts back to Kobe, his last visit to Cleveland, and one of the last times he’ll be on the same court as LeBron. Kobe’s farewell tour offers moments like these a lot, but this one feels a bit different. At least it does for me.
Kobe and LeBron are the two marquee, post-Jordan (and Shaq) players in the league. Their careers have overlapped since 2004 and they have been viewed by many as the two premier players in the league for most of this time. And while they have never faced off in the Finals, they have been viewed as rivals (of sorts). I won’t get into arguments about who the better player has been, but many fans of both guys will go to the tilt to cape for their own.
Anyways, seeing these two compete means something. LeBron’s teams have typically come out on top in these matchups and I expect the same tonight. But watching them go at it — especially since they will likely guard each other to start the game will be fun. If for no other reason, this is worth tuning in for.
Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and nationally on ESPN. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.