1. The Cavaliers are coming off their worst game of the season. How can they avoid another letdown against the Lakers?
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Quite simply, the change in styles between the Kings and Lakers will be a big help. The Kings ran a ton of pick-and-roll against the Cavs, with a lot of success because Isaiah Thomas is a machine in that offensive set this season, and had 26 points to demonstrate that. They also got picked apart down low, because Anderson Varejao couldn’t quite handle the physicality of DeMarcus Cousins. The Lakers, on the other hand, play right into the Cavs’ defensive strengths. They run PNR commonly, but are the league’s 5th-worst team at converting these plays into points, per Synergy. That’s what a lack of stability at the point guard position will do for you. They also do a lot of their work with spot-ups, which the Cavs’ are decent at covering. And while Jordan Hill is a banger inside for them, he’s no Boogie. Pau Gasol is the type of guy that Anderson Varejao can guard well down low as well, whereas Cousins is the type of player Varejao struggles with. I see this game going much better than a 40-point blowout (Not saying much) simply because the Lakers play in a style where the Cavs have advantages.
Jacob Rude, Lake Show Life EIC: Well, the Lakers are also playing their worst stretch of basketball this season, and on top of that, may be without their best remaining player in Pau Gasol. Whereas their depth was a depth was a strength to start the season, it’s become a weakness purely due to injuries. The only way the Lakers win this game is by pure ineptitude by the Cavaliers. The Lakers are going to sport a lineup with a point guard who has been on the team less than a month, two second round draft picks, and a couple role players. It’d be hard NOT to beat this Lakers squad.
Caleb Cottrell, Silver Screen & Roll Staff Writer: If the Cavaliers can’t beat this Lakers team, they are in trouble. Los Angeles has lost 10 of their last 11 games, and they might be playing with only eight men — three of them are Centers — against the Cavs. The Lakers currently have the sixth worst Defensive Rating in the league, so the Cavs should be able to get back on track offensively. Also, the Lakers have the second worst rebounding rate, and without Gasol, the Cavs bigs should be able to grab rebounds at will. This is the perfect game for the Cavs to start a winning streak, and possibly get Luol Deng more involved.
2. When defending LA, who will the Cavaliers have the most trouble slowing down?
TM: That would be one Nicholas Swaginald P. Young. Young is still one of our league’s finest chaos agents, and he’s the type of player who can simultaneously strike fear into the hearts of opponents and Lakers fans alike. Young has somewhat reinvented himself in the image of a Jamal Crawford-type player, still ISO’ing at an absurd rate like the pimped-out swagtron he is, but also converting off screens, spot-up opportunities, and off dribble hand-offs at a very acceptable rate. His offensive game somewhat operates with the same efficiency regardless of who is guarding him, as evidenced by his awesome Christmas Day game against the Heat. I think if anyone on the Lakers is going to kill the Cavs, it’s Young. And if that happens, it will be awesome.
JR: Ummmm…..uhhhh….Jodie Meeks? Ugh. If you had told me in the preseason that this was my answer at this point in the season, I’d have called you crazy. In reality, either Meeks or Nick Young are the Lakers most dangerous players offensively, but dangerous in a way that a newborn puppy is dangerous. Swaggy P has the ability to carry the team, but only for short spurts. If Gasol is indeed out, the Lakers will be in an even more dire situation than they already are in. Meeks has been a consistent performer, but not one who can carry the scoring load and often still needs to be set up to score. In a related note, is it June yet?
CC: Nick Young? Jodie Meeks? That’s about all I’ve got. Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and even guys like Xavier Henry, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar could be in the lead if, not for injuries. But this team is cursed, so Mr. Swaggy P will be the most threatening to the Cavaliers. Yes, a guy who shoots under 43 percent for his career. Meeks is having the better season — he has cooled off by a lot since his hot start — but Swag Rambo has the better ability to create his own shot. And with only Kendall Marshall at point guard, both are going to need to make their own shots. It’s also possible Marsh Madness continues, but I wouldn’t count on it. His shot is bound to regress.
3. The Lakers’ point guard spot has been a revolving door of players this season. What’s the best/worst case scenario for L.A. against Kyrie Irving?
TM: The Lakers are starting Kendall Marshall at point guard. That should tell you everything you need to know about this Laker team. The funny thing is that Marshall has been a solid passer in the Lakers’ offense, but he’s still a sieve defensively, as are Jodie Meeks and Mr. Young, which is going to mean Kyrie should have a field day. Best-case scenario? The Lakers hedge the crap out of PNRs with Jordan Hill or Gasol, and force Kyrie to rely on jumpers and his teammates to beat them. Also, Kyrie has another cold shooting night like his 3-14 stinkbomb against the Kings, and suddenly the Lakers are able to bog down the Cavs’ offense and turn this into ISOfest 2014. The worst? Well…….
JR: Best case scenario? Kyrie scores only 30 points, Kendall Marshall doesn’t get hurt, and Marshall Law continues to run wild as he dishes out 15 assists to keep the Lakers from getting blown out. Worst case scenario? Marshall joins the long list of injured Lakers this year and Nick Young is forced into a point guard role. Wait, that would be awesome to watch. But Swaggy running the point would mean a loss, which improves our #TankRank. Maybe this should be best case scenario. This team needs more Swaggy.
CC: With Kendall Marshall on the floor, the Lakers are worse on defense than when he isn’t on the floor. Marshall will probably play 40 minutes, and is going to be guarding Kyrie Irving. That does not bode well for the Lakers. Best case is the Lakers try to lockdown Kyrie, and force his teammates to beat them. If the Lakers just let Marshall handle him, then Uncle Drew should put on a clinic. After his last game, this Lakers defense is exactly what Kyrie Irving needs.