The Los Angeles Lakers take the court Sunday night looking to improve their record without LeBron James as they take on the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.
Normally, a January game against the NBA’s worst team would not be a very important game, but in the West, every night is extremely important. In fact, if the Cavaliers do upset the Lakers, they drop to ninth place, taking them out of the Western Conference playoffs.
In that way, this is a must-win for the Lakers. But this is also a must-win situation for the Cavaliers, who have lost a dismal 12 straight games. As they continue to play without their star, Kevin Love, they also have to play this game without Larry Nance Jr., who suffered an MCL sprain earlier in the week.
The Lakers are without James, who will be re-evaluated on Jan. 16. This is his 10th straight missed game, which adds to his career-long streak of missed games.
So, as is the case with most games recently, the bulk of the work is on the young core of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart. For some reason, these four are yet to all play well on the same night, but this game against the Cavaliers may be the perfect opportunity to do that.
After a horrible loss to Knicks last week, the Lakers should be extremely focused to make sure they don’t lose another game to a tanking Eastern Conference team.
While the Lakers would drop out of the playoffs with a loss, a win could bring them within a game of the sixth seed. One night makes all the difference in the West.
This game is also a return to Staples Center from former Laker, Jordan Clarkson, who was traded to the Cavaliers at the trade deadline last season along with Nance. Clarkson is currently the Cavaliers leading scorer, averaging 17.1 points per game off the bench.
While this is an easier opponent, it is by no means a night off. If the Lakers view it this way, they could find themselves outside of the playoff picture.
Los Angeles Lakers (23-20) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (8-35)
6:30 P.M. PT, Jan. 13, 2019
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ivica Zubac, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley
Projected Cavaliers Starting Lineup:
PG: Collin Sexton
SG: Alec Burks
SF: Rodney Hood
PF: Cedi Osman
C: Tristan Thompson
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Matthew Dellavedova, Cameron Payne