After a water break at Staples Center last Sunday, the Lakers (9-12) are back out on the road again for the next 5 games starting in Cleveland tonight.
The purple and gold lost their 2nd straight and 7 of their last 10 games against the lukewarm Utah Jazz (12-10) due to their ongoing inability to figure out how to work together on the defensive end of the floor. That and giving up 25 points on 14 turnovers.
Kobe Bryant believes their defensive woes can be blamed on poor floor balance. That may be true in some level, but let's not forget that Mike D'Antoni's system is focused on the perimeter. Much of the shots are taken from behind the 3-point line (hence the 28 3-pointers they shot versus Utah). And as you've heard Stu Lantz say over and over again, "long shots, long rebounds". That would mean perimeter players, like Bryant, would need to box out and grab those missed shots if they also want to prevent quick, easy points from the opposing team because getting to missed shots before the other team can is a better defense to a fast break than simply running back.
Bryant had zero rebounds against the Jazz.
Not picking on Kobe, but such shallow responses to legitimate questions regarding the perplexing problems the Lakers are still having is a reflection of the players not taking enough ownership of what they must do as a team and as individuals to turn things around. If even Kobe can't see what something as fundamental as boxing out can do, then the Lakers will continue to struggle.
Tonight, they're facing the 3rd-worse team in the east at 4-17 and 2-6 at home. On paper, that should be a "W" for the Lakers. But these days, nothing is ever certain for this team.
Matchup of the Game
Chris Duhon vs. Kyrie Irving: Word has it that Irving is expected to play tonight after breaking his left index finger against Philadelphia last month. He's no doubt the Cavs' best player leading them in points (22.9 PPG) and in assists (5.6 APG). Duhon will need to pick it up defensively while making sure he converts the open looks he's gonna get.
Keys to the Game
> Effort: I'm not alone when I say that this is getting very old. Every single team in the NBA will give their best against the Lakers. If the Lakers, especially when they're still struggling, pick and choose when they want to play even against the Cavs, they can't hope to win.
> Defensive Rebounds: Yes, the Lakers are 2nd in rebounding in the NBA. So what? They tend to forget that down the stretch when it matters most. They do need to run back defensively, but they'd be surprised how much less they'd need to do that if they just work as a team to get rebounds.
> Defense: The Cavs are 23rd in the league in scoring allowing 100.5 points per game. That may not look so dangerous, but the point here is the Lakers must start improving on this end of the floor and now.
Watch Out For
LAKERS: Jordan Hill: This guy is on a roll right now increasing his point (9.3 PPG) and rebounding (8.3 RPG) average since getting more minutes from Pau Gasol's absence. Hill has been truly one of the few bright spots for the Lakers lately.
CAVALIERS: Anderson Varejao: He may look like a scrub against Dwight Howard, but he can be a pest if the Lakers underestimate him. Varejao is known to be an energy guy who hustles plenty and never takes any possessions off.
Tonight @ Cleveland Cavaliers
4:00 p.m. (PST)
Quickens Loans Arena
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW
LAKERS: Steve Nash (leg – out until end of December) and Steve Blake (abdomen – out until mid-January)
CAVALIERS: Dion Waiters (bone bruise, ankle – listed as day-to-day but could be game time decision)