The Los Angeles Lakers finally got a win to stop their eight-game losing streak. The Lakers went into Philadelphia motivated, starting the game on a 13-0 run and ultimately stretching their lead to as many as 22 against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Lakers were led by a balanced attack having five players scored over 10 points.
Now the Lakers travel to Cleveland to take on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers. The Cavs have won five of their last six games and hold the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers need to come out with the same energy they played with against the 76ers if they do not want to be blown out of the building. The Cavaliers have a top five offense and a player in LeBorn James that can take over on either end of the floor.
Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith lead a backcourt for the Cavaliers. Irving has not slowed down since making that clutch jumper against the Golden State Warriors in game seven of last year’s NBA Finals. The former Duke star is averaging 23.9 points, 4.7 assists and 3.0 rebounds.
Irving is one of the most difficult guards to stop as he has a great handle and finishes at the rim better than arguably any point guard in the league, but also hits 43.5 percent of his shots behind the arc. The Lakers can’t expect to shut down Irving, but have to hope to slow him down as much as possible. Nick Young will likely get the initial job of trying to contain him.
Smith plays a very similar role to the one Nick Young plays for the Lakers. Many people thought that Smith’s NBA career was coming to a close before he landed in Cleveland. The 12-year veteran is averaging 8.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.4 assists this season, but is capable of exploding for 30 points on any given night.
D’Angelo Russell was the one that got the Lakers going against the 76ers. Russell was able to get his hands in the passing lanes, make open threes and set up his teammates for open looks. The Lakers need him to keep the ball moving and not allow for too much isolation play.
Young had an efficient night against the 76ers, scoring 15 points on 5-9 shooting. Young’s presence in the lineup allows the Lakers offense to spread out and give players like D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle space to slice into the opponent’s defense and either lay it up or find the open man behind the three-point line.
As has been the case all year, the Lakers will also need big games from their two bench guards, Lou Williams and Jordan Clarkson. Williams has been a constant source of offense for the Lakers while Clarkson will likely spend a lot of time chasing around Irving as well.
LeBron James is still the most dominant player in the NBA. James is averaging 25.0 points, 9.0 assists and 7.6 rebounds. Every night LeBron James is a mismatch for the opposing team’s counterpart because of his size, strength and speed. Luol Deng will spend a lot of time guarding him and has plenty of experience from his years with the Chicago Bulls. Hopefully that extra knowledge will serve him well.
Kevin Love is enjoying his best season in Cleveland this year and finally looking like the player the Cavs traded for in 2014. He is averaging 22 points and 10.4 rebounds while knocking down 41.1 percent of his three-point attempts. Next to him is the always energetic Tristan Thompson who thrives in his role of rebounding, blocking shots, and finishing at the rim.
Julius Randle has been a little up and down this season, but he showed up against the 76ers. Randle had 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists. The former Wildcat has demonstrated that he can put his head down and get to the basket whenever he wants, but he will need to bring it defensively as well since he will surely spend his night guarding both Love and James. For Timofey Mozgov, his biggest jobs will be to act as a deterrent for James and Irving driving to the basket, and keep Thompson off the offensive glass.
Larry Nance Jr. will return to his home state of Ohio tonight coming off a game in which Luke Walton called him the most impactful player on the floor. He will need to continue that level of play. Likewise, rookie Brandon Ingram will need to step up his game as the Lakers will need the entire team on point to steal a win in Cleveland.
Keys To Victory:
Create Second Opportunities:
One weakness the Cavs have is that they give up 12 offensive rebounds per game, one of the worst rates in the league. Cleveland is a capable defensive team so getting multiple chances could be key in the Lakers keeping things close.
Bring Effort on Defense:
The Lakers aren’t a great defensive team, but they must at least play with energy and effort on that end of the floor. Cleveland is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league with multiple players shooting over 40 percent from deep. The Lakers need to force the Cavs into shooting contested jumpers.
Move The Ball:
The key to the Lakers offense is ball movement and the team got away from that during their losing streak. When things get tough the team can revert back to isolation ball but they can’t afford to do that tonight. The offense must operate at its best level and the ball must move for that to happen.
Los Angeles Lakers (11-18) Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-6)
4:30 P.M. PST, December 17, 2016
Quicken Loans Arena, Clevland, Ohio
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Cavaliers Starting Lineup:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: J.R. Smith
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Love
C: Tristan Thompson
Key Reserves: Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Mike Dunleavy
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Lou Williams, Tarik Black