Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavs: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Everyone expected the Cavaliers to struggle coming into the season with so much reliance on extremely young players, but their struggles have been exacerbated by injuries to their two best scorers, Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.
Meanwhile, the Lakers were looking to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference under the guise of four superstars. Yet here they sit three games below .500.
Normally this would be just another game, but with so much on the line now in every game for the Lakers, it's easy to see this game getting more attention than usual.
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Los Angeles (9-12), Cleveland (4-17)
Betting Lines: Not available as of December 10th
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Nash (fractured fibula, out), Pau Gasol (knee tedinitis, out), Steve Blake (abdominal surgery, out). Cavaliers: Dion Waiters (sprained ankle, questionable), Kyrie Irving (broken finger, active)
Key Storyline: Health
The Lakers and Cavaliers have dealt with more than their fair share of health issues early on in the season and the standings obviously reflect that.
It's too early to jump to conclusions about the Lakers (although we're getting close) until both Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are in the lineup together, but that's not going to happen with either Nash or Gasol for this one.
On the other side of things, Cleveland has been missing Kyrie Irving for the better part of a month with a broken finger and Dion Waiters for a handful of games with a sprained ankle.
If Cleveland can get their two most potent scorers back, they just might have a chance in this one.
Key Matchup: Dwight Howard vs. Anderson Varejao
If you haven't had the pleasure of watching Anderson Varejao chase down rebounds this season, then you're missing out on a legitimate treat.
Not only is Andy leading the league, he's up by more than two boards per game on the closest banger, Zach Randolph.
It's unlikely that Andy will be able to limit Howard much on the offensive end, but with his incredible action and springiness, he could very well walk away with five or six offensive rebounds.
Don't expect a showdown of epic proportions, but if you're able to land the Cleveland feed via League Pass and Varejao starts to track down rebounds on another impressive clip, watch out for Austin Carr completely losing it, which is always a fun way to experience a Tuesday night basketball game.
X-Factors: Antawn Jamison and Alonzo Gee
In a normal season, there is no bigger X-factor than Metta World Peace. However, he's relegated himself to either being on or off during a game, while Antawn Jamison has been capable of inexplicably exploding at any time.
Over the course of the past eight games, Jamison has done everything from scoring 33 points and grabbing 15 rebounds to going 1-of-7 and scoring just three points.
It's hard to say that anything is an option with Jamison, but I've yet to see him play more than two similar games in a row, so we'll see what the Lakers can get out of him against his former team.
With Kyrie Irving back in the lineup, the Cavaliers don't have to rely so excessively on Jeremy Pargo, so we've got to look elsewhere for a legitimate X-factor on their part.
In this case it has to be Alonzo Gee, a guy who is capable of hitting four of his six threes or missing every shot from outside of 15 feet, with almost no in-between. If he's on then he can be moderately good, if not then he's useless outside of cutting into the lane.
Otherwise, you'll be able to find Gee knocking down at least one nice transition dunk during the game and playing some unexpectedly impressive perimeter defense, so watch out Kobe Bryant.
It seems to me that the Lakers have been playing with either terrific offensive unity or horrendous defensive continuity. Oh wait, they're actually doing both.
The Lakers are playing terribly inconsistently recently (and chronically), but their style of play is perfect to take down a very green Cavaliers team.
If the Lakers defense is going to continue to be lax and leave holes to the lane and unguarded spot-up shooters, then the Cavs could wind up keeping this one close, but it seems like that's the most they could hope for.
I would never feel confident calling for a Lakers victory after the past several weeks, but against a Cavaliers team with such little consistent talent, it seems unlikely they muster enough points to end up on top in this one.
Los Angeles Lakers 112, Cleveland Cavaliers 103
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