After a loss at home to the Utah Jazz, the Lakers will be on the road for the next four games. Their first stop will be in Cleveland where they will face Cavaliers. The Cavs are an inexperienced team who sit at the bottom of the central division. When you compare the Lakers and the Cavs on paper, it seems that the Lakers would have an overwhelming advantage. However, the Lakers “paper advantage” hasn’t earned them many wins yet this season and they haven’t played well on the road. Tonight’s game is the perfect trap game which the Lakers could overlook in anticipation of a Thursday night showdown against D’Antoni’s former team in New York.
Frontcourt: The Brazilian center Anderson Varejao is leading the league with 15.2 boards per game. In addition he is the team’s third leading scorer behind Waiters (ankle injury) and Irving (fracture finger, expected to return tonight). Second year player Tristan Thompson has earned his spot in the starting rotation. He’s averaging 8.9 points and 7.5 rebounds and has recorded four double-doubles this year. At the wing Alonzo Gee is probably the Cavs best on ball defender and he will probably be tasked with guarding Kobe. Gee averages 1.5 steals per game along with 12.1 points. The Cavs backup rookie center is Zeller who has height, but lacks the bulk to deal with physical players like Dwight Howard. All in all the Cavs frontcourt is much younger and inexperienced when compared with the Lakers, but the have the athleticism to compete if the Lakers come out flat.
Backcourt: Kyrie Irving is expected to return tonight for the Cavs who have lost their past five games. Irving is undoubtedly the most talented player on the Cavaliers roster and leads the team with 22.9 points, 5.6 assists and 1.8 threes per game. Starting shooting guard Dion Waiters will likely be out tonight with a sore ankle. Daniel Gibson, one of the holdovers from LeBron’s Cavaliers era, has started in his place. Gibson is known for his three point shooting and will need to be guarded closely on the perimeter. He’s undersized for his position at 6’2’’ and will have trouble matching up with Kobe. Perhaps the Cavs will use backup C.J. Miles at the two instead to match-up with the Lakers.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Defensive Rotations: Howard has been harping on the Lakers poor defensive rotations. The Lakers are having trouble communicating on the defensive end of the floor which has resulted in easy baskets for opponents. Without defense, it’s tough to imagine this team competitive in the playoffs despite all of their offensive firepower. Luckily the Cavs are one of the worst shooting teams in the league at 41.2% so hopefully the Lakers are able to lock them down.
Let’s hope the Lakers take the Cavaliers seriously and play with urgency and intensity. With Irving back in the Cavaliers lineup and considering how poorly the Lakers have played on the road, it’s not unfathomable that the Cavs could beat the Lakers tonight. A win tonight would improve the Lakers road record to 3-10.
Los Angeles Lakers (9-12) at Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17)
4:00 PM PST, December 11, 2012
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: TWC Sports Network
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Cavaliers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Daniel Gibson
SF: Alonzo Gee
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Anderson Varejao
Key Reserves: PG: Jeremy Pargo, FC: Tyler Zeller, GF: C.J. Miles