The Los Angeles Lakers can secure a 10-0 start on the road, but have to do it against a young and scrappy Cleveland Cavaliers team that is exceeding expectations to begin the season.
The Cavaliers sit at 8-8 through 16 games, including two wins against the Brooklyn Nets and one against the Philadelphia 76ers. They’ve been able to make strides this season due to the development of Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, as well as a balanced roster surrounding their guard pairing.
Sexton is averaging 25.5 points per game this season, while big man Andre Drummond has done an excellent job holding down the paint. He is putting up numbers of 18.3 points, 14.5 rebounds, and a combined three steals and block per game.
While the Cavs played extremely well against the Nets, the Lakers present an entirely different set of challenges. Cleveland may have the NBA’s sixth-ranked defense, but their offense is in the basement, ranking 29th, just above the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have the sixth-ranked offense and the league’s best defense. So while the Lakers offense against the Cavaliers defense could shape up to be a fun battle, the opposite end of the floor may cause problems for LeBron James’ former team.
The Cavaliers are also incorporating recently acquired center Jarrett Allen into the rotation. Allen was brought to Cleveland — along with Taurean Prince — as a part of the four-team trade that sent James Harden to the Nets.
Kevin Love remains sidelined with an injury, but when he returns the Cavaliers may have a serious logjam in the paint. Throughout the night, the Lakers may see any combination of Drummond, Allen and JaVale McGee.
Larry Nance Jr., who is usually the starting power forward, is out against the Lakers due to a wrist injury.
Monday’s matchup may be a game in which Marc Gasol is required to play a big role, as the Cavaliers will most likely have at least one 7-footer on the floor at all times. Montrezl Harrell may be able to take care of their smaller big men like Prince, but Gasol will need to face off against Drummond, Allen or McGee.
While on paper the Lakers should come away with their 10th consecutive road victory, the Cavaliers have proven they can beat anyone on any given night. This is especially true on the second night of a back-to-back, following a blowout loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
For the Lakers, they should have their full complement of rotation players but will once again be without Jared Dudley. If they want to continue their road perfection, they cannot look past this opponent like several other top tier teams have done.
Lakers (13-4) vs. Cavaliers (8-8)
5:00 p.m. PT, Jan. 25, 2021
Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland, Ohio
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: LeBron James
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Anthony Davis
C: Marc Gasol
Key Reserves: Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Kuzma, Alex Caruso, Wesley Matthews, Markieff Morris
Projected Cavaliers starting lineup:
PG: Collin Sexton
SG: Isaac Okoro
SF: Cedi Osman
PF: Jarrett Allen
C: Andre Drummond
Key Reserves: Darius Garland, Damyean Dotson, Taurean Prince, JaVale McGee
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