Lakers vs. Cavaliers Preview: Lakers Looking For A Win Before Road Trip
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Having lost 10 of 11 games, and after being embarrassed last Friday night against the Clippers, the Lakers are in dire need of a win to get out of this slump. With the annual Grammy Road Trip coming up, it is imperative that the Lakers hit the road with some momentum as they won’t return to Staples Center for two weeks.

The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t fared too well as of late either as they come into this game having lost nine of their last 12 games. Their last game was an abysmal 44 point loss to the Sacramento Kings so both teams will be looking to erase the stench of their previous showings.

The Cavs have disappointed this season as many expected the team to be far better than they have shown this season. With young studs in Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Tristan Thompson, plus the recent addition of veteran forward Luol Deng, the Cavaliers have a lot of talent and are capable of beating anyone on any given night.

The Cavaliers have a very good frontcourt now that they have plugged their longstanding hole at the small forward position with longtime Chicago Bull, Luol Deng. Deng immediately becomes the team’s best defender, in addition to bringing good scoring, rebounding, and a veteran presence that the team has lacked.

Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao round out the frontcourt. These two form one of the best rebounding tandems in the NBA, so it will be essential for the Lakers to put a body on both of these guys. Varejao is one of the most active bigs in the league and Thompson is great at getting excellent position and using his long arms to snag rebounds on both ends of the floor.

The Lakers give up more offensive rebounds than any team in the league and this is a team that can kill them in that area. Gasol, Sacre, and Kaman will have to box out every possession, as well as make them work on the defensive end. Neither is a great defender so Gasol and Kaman could punish them one-on-one.

Wesley Johnson finally got on track offensively in the last game, so he will need to keep that going as allowing Deng to roam around on defense could make life extremely difficult for the Lakers on offense.

The Cavaliers boast one of the best young point guards in the NBA in Kyrie Irving. Irving lit the Lakers up for 28 points and 11 assists in the meeting in Cleveland last season and could easily put up 30 or 40 points if the Lakers defense isn’t up to par.

C.J. Miles starts at shooting guard and while he isn’t a prolific scorer, he is the team’s best shooter from outside so the Lakers can’t afford to help too much off of him. Not to mention, Dion Waiters is an excellent scorer off the bench, very much like Nick Young is for the Lakers.

While the Cavs guards are excellent offensively, they are porous defensively. Irving and Waiters are both terrible on-ball defenders so Kendall Marshall should be able to run the offense and get in the paint without much resistance. Jodie Meeks could also be in store for a nice game and Nick Young, as usual, will be relied upon to get some points on the board. The Cavs give up a lot of points so this is a chance for the Lakers to really get going offensively.

Keys To Lakers Victory
Limiting Turnovers: The Lakers defense is among the league’s worst this season, but one of the main causes of their inability to stop teams has been their turnovers. The Lakers turn the ball over more than 15 times a game and while Marshall has played well, he has also had a couple of six turnover games.

When in the half court, the Lakers defense hasn’t been terrible, but they give up so many easy baskets in transition because of the turnovers and it puts the Lakers in hole that they struggle to dig out of. With a pair of quick-handed, explosive guards in Irving and Waiter, not to mention an excellent defender in Deng and two extremely active big men in Thompson and Varejao, the Lakers will have to be very careful with their passes. If they can limit the turnovers, and the Cavs transition points, Cleveland will struggle to generate points.

Keep The Bigs Off The Glass: The Cavaliers have two men, Thompson and Varejao, who rank in the top 15 in the NBA in rebounds. The Lakers have big bodies who are capable of handling them, but they struggle to put bodies on people and against active guys like these, it could be a difference maker.

The Cavaliers are not great offensively, but offensive rebounds and putbacks are an easy way to get points. Thompson averages nearly four offensive rebounds a game by himself, Deng is a great rebounder, and Irving and Waiters’ athleticism make them rebounding threats as well. Limiting the extra shots and easy baskets will be essential for a Lakers victory, and their ability to rebound the ball is a key part of that.

Guard Scoring: The Cavaliers guards are all excellent scorers and the Lakers guards will have to match that. Marshall has the toughest task, going head-to-head with Irving, but if Meeks and Young both play to their potential, the Lakers will be in good shape.

Young will get his points, as he always does, but he will need to be more efficient in this game. The key to this game may be Jodie Meeks, who has been a scoring machine as of late. He will be the best shooter on the floor without a doubt and he can keep the floor spaced which will make life much easier for Marshall.

Gasol’s status is up in the air, and Kaman and Sacre are not great scorers so the offense is going to be very perimeter-oriented for the Lakers. These guards have to show up in a big way.

The Cleveland Perspective

Our good friend Conrad Kaczmarek of SB Nation’s Cavaliers blog, Fear The Sword, also chimed in on some of the keys to tonight’s game.

1. Why will the Lakers win?

The Lakers will win because the Cavs are playing on the road. So far this season, Cleveland has an impressive 3-16 record away from home and this game is not at home. That’s really all it takes for the Cavs to have a really significant chance to lose the game, no matter who they’re playing.

The Cavs are worse in essentially every statistic when they’re on the road, but their defense is particularly bad. At home, the Cavs have a defensive rating of 98.2 points per 100 possessions. On the road, that number goes all the way up to 108.5 points per 100 possessions. That pretty much tells the story, doesn’t it?

2. Why will the Cavs win?

The Cavs will win because they’re playing the Lakers. I don’t mean to be a jerk (sort of), but this Lakers team just isn’t any good. I already talked about how bad the Cavs play away from home and their struggles so far this secret aren’t much of a secret. But Cleveland does have the more talented roster. Kendall Marshall guarding Kyrie Irving is going to be high comedy. If Pau Gasol can’t play or is limited, that’s even more of an advantage for the Cavs.

This will be Luol Deng’s third game with Cleveland and you figure that he’s gradually becoming more comfortable with his new teammates and learning the new system, so that helps. Ultimately, I think the Cavs win this game especially because they’re coming off their worst performance of the season, losing by 44 (!!) points in Sacramento.

Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24) at Los Angeles Lakers (14-23)
7:30 PM PST, January 14, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Cavaliers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: C.J. Miles
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Tristan Thompson
C: Anderson Varejao

Key Reserves: SG: Dion Waiters PG: Jarrett Jack SF: Earl Clark

Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wes Johnson
PF: Pau Gasol
C: Robert Sacre

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