December 14, 2017, 3:18 am
The Lakers (10-16) head to Cleveland to take on the hot Cavaliers (20-8) who have won 9-of-10 and 15-of-16. For the Lakers, this game is the first in one of the toughest stretches for any team in the league during which they must face the Cavs, Warriors twice, Rockets, Trailblazers and Wolves. They will be playing three of the four best teams in the league, the league leading Rockets, the defending champions and every single team on this slate is in a position to make the playoffs. This stretch will be a litmus test for the young Lakers and a way to measure the young team’s development.
Cleveland is led by future hall-of-fame player LeBron James who is having another sensational season averaging 28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks on an almost comical 58.3 percent shooting from the field. If they can’t beat him, the Lakers hope that he joins them next year when he has the opportunity to select the next place to take his talents. This game takes on added importance as in a sense, the young Lakers are auditioning for his future services.
Lonzo Ball will be one of those such players whose performance will be judged by his majesty King James. Ball is coming off a spectacular performance in which he produced 17 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block. More importantly he looked the part of an NBA player dominating a stretch of the third quarter and shooting a respectable 6-of-13 from the floor with only one turnover.
The other Laker rookie, often the better of the two regardless of his lower draft pedigree, is Kyle Kuzma who has been consistently stellar on the season averaging 16.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 49.1 percent shooting. Kuzma may even have the opportunity to match up with James for stretches which will be an exciting challenge for the rookie and his fans.
Brandon Ingram will be matched up with James in the starting roster but it will be hard to imagine him guarding him due to the large disparity in their weight and strength. Ingram has been much improved on the season but struggled mightily during the Lakers overtime loss to the Knicks, missing his first 10 shots and ending with only five points, seven rebounds, five assists and five turnovers.
The bench will be key to the Lakers chances of pulling off an upset. They will have to have a strong performance by the likes of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Kuzma as that may be one of the few advantages in this matchup.
- The Cavs are a much better shooting team than the Lakers at 48.2 percent (3rd) from the field vs. 45.5 percent (15th).
- This is even more pronounced from 3-point range where Cleveland shoots 37.7 percent (6th) compared to 32.2 percent (30th) for the Lakers.
- Los Angeles is also last in the league in free throw shooting at 70.4 percent while Cleveland excels at 80.7 percent (3rd).
- After taking note of those stats, it is not surprising that the Cavs are third in the league with an overall offensive rating of 11.3 vs 100.2 (28th) for the Lakers.
- The two teams are also at the opposite end of the spectrum as it pertains to defensive rating where the Lakers are a much improved 102.9 (8th) compared to 107.9 (27th).
- The Lakers must also limit their turnovers, a key weakness for them this season at 17.1 (29th) vs. 14.8 (18th) for the Cavs.
- One important edge for Los Angeles is on the glass where they average 46.5 (3rd) compared to 42.0 (21st) for Cleveland.
- Another statistic in favor of the Lakers is blocked shots where they average 5.7 blocks a game (3rd) vs. 3.9 (25th) for the Cavs.
Lonzo Ball (PG)
Josh Hart (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Larry Nance Jr. (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Jose Calderon (PG)
J.R. Smith (SG)
LeBron James (SF)
Jae Crowder (PF)
Kevin Love (C)
Lonzo Ball (bruised thigh) – PROBABLE
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (personal) – OUT
Derrick Rose (anke) – OUT
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – OUT
Dwyane Wade (left knee) – PLAYING
Tristan Thompson (calf) – OUT
Time: 8:00 PM EST, 5:00 PM PST
Television: FOX SPORTS OHIO, SPORTSNET ONE, TNT
Radio: WTAM 1100, 100.7 WMMS, 87.7 FM (ESP), 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES