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Preview: Lakers vs. Cavaliers

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.

Game Info

Tonight @ Cleveland Cavaliers
4:00 p.m. (PST)
Quickens Loans Arena
TV: TWC SportsNet (Southern California)
Radio: 710 AM ESPN/1330 KWKW

Injury Note

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)
 

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Preview: Lakers vs. Cavaliers


(Getty Images)

After dropping their last two games, the Lakers (38-18) are probably happy they’re finishing this long road trip against the team they destroyed last month at Staples Center by 55 points. The Cleveland Cavaliers (9-46) has gone back from being the kings of the regular season for the past two years to the doormats of the NBA. My, my how bad things can change sometimes when a franchise loses its cornerstone.

The Cavs are obviously the league’s worst team. Just how bad they’ve become exactly? Well, they managed to break their own NBA all-time record of longest losing streak of 24 games (1981-82/1982-83 seasons) with 26 games this season until the Clippers came to town and were gracious enough to relieve them of that dubious distinction for at least one game. They lost the following game against Washington and will most likely start another long losing streak if the 2-time defending champs break out of their recent stagnant mold.

Some are calling this another trap game for the Lakers because of their opponent, but I disagree. I think the Lakers understand the consequences if they were to lose this game.

The NBA trade deadline is merely 8 days away. Unless you’ve been living on the moon, you should already know that general manager Mitch Kupchak (and others that are closely connected to the team) have publicly placed his displeasure of seeing this team underachieve given the amount of quality players they have. Kupchak sours at the lack of effort the Lakers have been playing with on numerous games this season, but especially against the teams they’ll likely meet in the playoffs and in the Finals.

So if the Lakers were to mirror their game in Charlotte last Monday tonight against, again, the worst team in the league, don’t be surprised to see the current roster change by Feb. 24th.

Just to note what the Lakers are up against. Cleveland has the 25th highest-scoring team in the league putting up 94.9 points per game and are the 28th best defense allowing 105.9 points per outing. They are also ranked 27th in rebounding prowess collecting 39.8 boards per game.

Twelve-year veteran Antawn Jamison leads the team in scoring at 17.7 PPG. Out-for-the-season Anderson Varejao is (for some reason) still their leading rebounder (9.7 RPG) and shot-blocker (1.2 BPG) while Mo Williams is their top assist man at 7.3 APG.

The Cavs are a formidable 6-19 at home and have dropped 9 of their last 10 games at Quicken Loans Arena. Meanwhile, the Lakers are trying to exchange their 2-game losing streak for a much needed W before they head back home to Los Angeles. They have dropped to 19-10 away from Staples Center but are 5-2 in their last 7 road games.

The Lakers took Tuesday off and only held a voluntary workout. No one knows if any Laker showed up to work on their game since the media was not allowed to cover it.

I guess we’ll know who showed up when we see them play tonight.

GO LAKERS!!!

TP&G Blog Matchup of the Game

Derek Fisher vs. Mo Williams: Mo is playing his third game back from a hip injury. In the two games he played since his return, he’s already averaging a double-double of 13.5 PPG and a remarkable 11 APG. Obviously, Mo is the guy that runs the offense for the Cavs. Fish will need to make sure Williams doesn’t do anything to spark the Cavs into thinking they can hang with the Lakers. Derek usually also tries to make the other guy work on both ends of the floor, but his offense has been non-existent the past few games.

Keys for the Lakers

1. Frontcourt: They clobbered the Cavs in points in the paint, 52-28 in their first meeting and outrebounded them 53-42. With their outside shot not falling for them lately, this should be the start and end point for the Lakers in their offensive attack. That said…
2. Balanced Attack: It would be nice to see their perimeter game to show up tonight. Once of the most noteable things the Lakers did against the Cavs last time was their balanced scoring across the boards simply because it was one of those rare games when they took advantage of their overall talent.
3. Mindset: A win is impossible in this league if the collective mindset of the Lakers are not in tuned and on the same page to winning this game. They’ve gotta want to win this game first before they can call this a victory.

Game Info

Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m. (PST).  TV: KCAL (Los Angeles)/ESPN-LP (national)  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN (Los Angeles)

Injury Notes

LAKERS: Matt Barnes (right knee) and Theo Ratliff (left knee) are still recuperating.

CAVALIERS: Daniel Gibson (left quad strain) is gametime decision. Anderson Varejao is out for the season due to foot injury.

Preview: Lakers vs. Cavaliers

On the surface, it’s Kobe vs. Lebron. But if you’re into the Lakers (32-9) avenging their Christmas Day loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers (32-11), this game has all the elements of a good revenge story.  

Ron Artest wants to get another crack at Lebron James after Lebron puts up 26 points on Ron. Derek Fisher would like to see if Mo Williams can get 28 points at his expense again. Andrew Bynum is looking to score more than 4 points against Shaquille O’Neal and see if he can make Shaq less of a factor for the Cavs. The Laker bench is on a little roll and knows they can’t afford to have another letdown against this team.

But the Lakers cannot be too concerned about beating the Cavs. They have to focus more on how they need to go about their business on both sides of the floor. They have to worry more about the energy, that often neglected pep in their step that is vital to having any sort of balance and rhythm to their game. They will also have to make sure that their defense is as sharp as their execution on offense. Plus, they have to take the physical beating teams will lay on them while ignoring any non-call or bad call by the refs.

In other words, they should only focus on what they’re doing and what they need to do and not let anything else cloud or distract their goal of winning tonight and the rest of the 7 games on the road. The outcome of the matchup tonight will heavily lay the path for the Lakers the rest of their eastern swing.

Remember last season, they went undefeated in their 6-game road trip through the Easter Conference, including completing a sweep of both Celtics and Cavs. Most people regard that road schedule as the defining moment of their path to capturing last season’s title. I don’t disagree.

This time though the schedule is longer and Kobe has never played more hurt in his entire career. But his game-to-game performance is impossible to predict. So are the contributions of his teammates and, more importantly, the production of the bench.

Yes, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar are starting to put it all together, but it will take more than those two from the bench to build any sense of reliability that will give the starters any hope of support from them because, in all likelihood, the Lakers will need them for every single game in this trip.

The Cavs have the best home record in the east at 15-3 and have won 7 of their last 10, including the last two. The Lakers have only defeated them in Cleveland just once in their last 5 meetings and have been swept 4 times out of the last 5 seasons. The Lakers still have the best percentage defense in the league allowing their opponent to shoot only 43.5%, but Cleveland have the fourth best overall defense allowing their opponent no more than 94.6 point per game. The Lakers are ranked seventh at 96.4 per contest.

However, the Lakers don’t really care about any statistics or records. They want to beat Cleveland at Quickens Loan Arena for the second straight season, but not so much to avenge their loss. They want to win because of the moral edge they’ll get, not to mention a message to the rest of the elites that they haven’t gone anywhere and that their hopes of a championship still runs through Los Angeles.

The keys for the Lakers tonight is to match Cleveland’s energy, play smart, and make Lebron take tough shots. Both Andrew and Pau Gasol will have to challenge shots without fouling and make sure no one else can get to any rebound on both baskets. Artest will need to have a better defensive effort but take it to Lebron on the other end when he gets a chance to. If he can get him in early foul trouble, that will severely cripple the Cavs’ hope of having any momentum necessary to keep the Lakers at bay.

That said, the Lakers will still need to pay attention to the role players that surround Lebron. They should let Shaq score in the post but make him play a little defense because that will tire him out easily. Cleveland only plays him 10 to 11 minutes per game so that they can get the most out of him without becoming a liability on the floor. So the sooner he gets tired, the sooner he sits down.

If the Lakers stay aggressive and smart, there’s no doubt they’ll win this game and start this road trip with a bang.

This should be a good one.


Tip-off is at 5:00.  TV: TNT  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

Preview: Lakers vs. Cavaliers

On the surface, it’s Kobe vs. Lebron. But if you’re into the Lakers (32-9) avenging their Christmas Day loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers (32-11), this game has all the elements of a good revenge story.  

Ron Artest wants to get another crack at Lebron James after Lebron puts up 26 points on Ron. Derek Fisher would like to see if Mo Williams can get 28 points at his expense again. Andrew Bynum is looking to score more than 4 points against Shaquille O’Neal and see if he can make Shaq less of a factor for the Cavs. The Laker bench is on a little roll and knows they can’t afford to have another letdown against this team.

But the Lakers cannot be too concerned about beating the Cavs. They have to focus more on how they need to go about their business on both sides of the floor. They have to worry more about the energy, that often neglected pep in their step that is vital to having any sort of balance and rhythm to their game. They will also have to make sure that their defense is as sharp as their execution on offense. Plus, they have to take the physical beating teams will lay on them while ignoring any non-call or bad call by the refs.

In other words, they should only focus on what they’re doing and what they need to do and not let anything else cloud or distract their goal of winning tonight and the rest of the 7 games on the road. The outcome of the matchup tonight will heavily lay the path for the Lakers the rest of their eastern swing.

Remember last season, they went undefeated in their 6-game road trip through the Easter Conference, including completing a sweep of both Celtics and Cavs. Most people regard that road schedule as the defining moment of their path to capturing last season’s title. I don’t disagree.

This time though the schedule is longer and Kobe has never played more hurt in his entire career. But his game-to-game performance is impossible to predict. So are the contributions of his teammates and, more importantly, the production of the bench.

Yes, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar are starting to put it all together, but it will take more than those two from the bench to build any sense of reliability that will give the starters any hope of support from them because, in all likelihood, the Lakers will need them for every single game in this trip.

The Cavs have the best home record in the east at 15-3 and have won 7 of their last 10, including the last two. The Lakers have only defeated them in Cleveland just once in their last 5 meetings and have been swept 4 times out of the last 5 seasons. The Lakers still have the best percentage defense in the league allowing their opponent to shoot only 43.5%, but Cleveland have the fourth best overall defense allowing their opponent no more than 94.6 point per game. The Lakers are ranked seventh at 96.4 per contest.

However, the Lakers don’t really care about any statistics or records. They want to beat Cleveland at Quickens Loan Arena for the second straight season, but not so much to avenge their loss. They want to win because of the moral edge they’ll get, not to mention a message to the rest of the elites that they haven’t gone anywhere and that their hopes of a championship still runs through Los Angeles.

The keys for the Lakers tonight is to match Cleveland’s energy, play smart, and make Lebron take tough shots. Both Andrew and Pau Gasol will have to challenge shots without fouling and make sure no one else can get to any rebound on both baskets. Artest will need to have a better defensive effort but take it to Lebron on the other end when he gets a chance to. If he can get him in early foul trouble, that will severely cripple the Cavs’ hope of having any momentum necessary to keep the Lakers at bay.

That said, the Lakers will still need to pay attention to the role players that surround Lebron. They should let Shaq score in the post but make him play a little defense because that will tire him out easily. Cleveland only plays him 10 to 11 minutes per game so that they can get the most out of him without becoming a liability on the floor. So the sooner he gets tired, the sooner he sits down.

If the Lakers stay aggressive and smart, there’s no doubt they’ll win this game and start this road trip with a bang.

This should be a good one.


Tip-off is at 5:00.  TV: TNT  Radio: 710/1330 AM ESPN

GO LAKERS!!!

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