The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a gut-wrenching 107-103 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. The Lakers saw themselves down by as many 18 points but battled back to get within a basket at the end. Unfortunately, they could not score or get a defensive stop down the stretch. Jordan Clarkson led the team with 21 points. The loss officially eliminated the Lakers from playoff contention. Tonight they welcome the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers to town.
The Cavaliers are coming off a 108-78 blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers yesterday afternoon. It should be noted that neither LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love played in the contest. Richard Jefferson led the team with 12 points and six rebounds. They will try and get back on track win tonight against the Lakers.
The starting backcourt for Cavs is held down by Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert. Irving has become a perennial All-Star in recent years. He gives opposing guards difficulty because he has superior ball-handling skills and he can either drive to the basket or knock down jumpers from almost anywhere on the court. Jordan Clarkson will perhaps have his toughest defensive assignment of the season tonight in dealing with Irving.
Shumpert is enjoying a solid season himself. He is averaging 7.9 points and three rebounds per game. Even though his scoring average is a little on the downside, he is a very capable shooter who can knock down mid range and long range shots. He is also very active on the defensive end. His combination of size and strength makes it difficult for the opposition to get clean looks.
Off the bench, the Cavaliers primarily turn to Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, and Deron Williams. Korver is one of the best shooters in the league. He is shooting 44.7 percent from three-point range this season so it is very important for whoever is guarding him must stay close to him while on the court. Smith is starting to regain his form after missing time due to injury. He is a very streaky shooter and can catch fire at any time during a game. He has also made strides with his defensive play. Like Korver, whoever is guarding him will have to make sure they do not give him enough room to shoot the ball.
Williams, who has only played nine games after signing with the team off waivers, is a very good veteran presence for the Cavs. He can run the offense and make mid range and long range shots. The Lakers bench will have match the production of the Cavs bench if they want to have a shot at winning this game.
Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young have played well as the starting backcourt for the Lakers. Clarkson has increased his scoring prowess, which has made him play with better confidence. He will need to continue his strong play tonight against one of the best teams in the entire league.
Young has found his shooting stroke again. Against the Bucks, he knocked down four three-pointers, despite getting ejected in the third quarter. He will have to have one his better performances of the season tonight if the Lakers want to be competitive.
D’Angelo Russell, Tyler Ennis, Corey Brewer and David Nwaba come off the bench for the Lakers. Russell is the superior player of the four, and he needs to start playing like it. Many times he is too uninvolved and does not produce like he needs to. That cannot happen tonight against the Cavs.
Ennis, Brewer, and Nwaba give the Lakers athleticism and energy when they are in the game. They will mostly be counted on to play solid defense tonight against an excellent offensive team. Hopefully, they can live up to the challenge.
LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson make up the starting frontcourt for the Cavs. It goes without saying that James is the best player in the league. He is averaging 26.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game this season. We have never seen a presence like him play the game with such ease. He can do everything on when he is on the court. There is no really no stopping him it is just about trying to contain him.
Love can also do many things well on the court. He can shoot, dribble, and pass the ball with eliteness. He is a difficult matchup for any player on a nightly basis, so Julius Randle will have his hands full tonight. Thompson is the defensive backbone for the Cavs. He can rebound extremely well, which means the Lakers will have to use fundamentals and box him out. He doesn’t provide much offense but has the ability to have good offensive games.
Off the bench, the Cavs turn to Channing Frye, Derrick Williams, and Richard Jefferson. Frye can step out and make three-point shots at a good percentage. The Lakers need to make sure he does not get open looks because he will make the defensive pay for their mistake.
Williams seems to be finding his niche as he gets settled into the Cavs rotation. He is averaging seven points and 2.9 rebounds per game. The Lakers must keep a close eye on him. Even though Jefferson is nearing the end of his playing career, he is still capable of making an impact. Since he is not counted on to provide a lot of offense he makes sure he contributes by playing defense and by being smart.
The Lakers starting frontcourt of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Ivica Zubac has been playing better as of late. Even though they are all young, they have shown flashes of the potential. Ingram has steadily gotten better as the season has progressed. He is averaging 8.7 points and four rebounds per game.
After Randle scored a career-high 32 points against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night, he managed to only score four points against the Bucks on Friday night. That has been the story of Randle’s season, inconsistency. If he wants to become a great player he needs to find a way to play more consistently. Zubac has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers this season. The rookie is averaging 7.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. If he can play the way he has been the Lakers might have found their center of the future.
Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black get the bulk of the minutes off the bench for the Lakers. Each of them provides a spark that helps the Lakers on the court. Even though both do not provide much offense, they hustle and play hard on every single play.
Three Keys To Victory
The Cavs are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA. They average about 13 makes per game. With shooters like Irving, Smith, Korver, and Frye the Lakers need to make sure where they are on the court at all times. If the Cavs start making their three’s it could be a long night for the Lakers.
If the Lakers want to be competitive in tonight’s game, they must take care of the ball. The Cavs will take advantage if the Lakers start to become careless with the basketball. The last things the Lakers need is to give up easy baskets to the Cavs.
The Lakers cannot afford to start the game sluggish tonight. They will make it extremely difficult on themselves if they let the Cavs jump out to a big lead. Great players like James will not let his team take their foot off the pedal, so the Lakers come ready to play.
Cleveland Cavaliers (45-23) Vs. Los Angeles Lakers (20-49)
6:30 P.M. PST, March 19, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Cavaliers Starting Lineup:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Iman Shumpert
SF: LeBron James
PF: Kevin Love
C: Tristan Thompson
Key Reserves: Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Derrick Williams
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, Corey Brewer