Cavaliers look for a miracle in the city of angels against Los Angeles Lakers

The Cleveland Cavaliers need to turn their fortune around in a late-season matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland Cavaliers
Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages

The Cleveland Cavaliers fell in a 122-101 loss to the Phoenix Suns as they continued to move through a Western Conference road trip on Wednesday. Cleveland guard Donovan Mitchell joined two other Cavaliers who scored 20 points or more at the Footprint Center, while forward Max Strus added 12 rebounds and eight assists.

Suns guard Devin Booker and forward Kevin Durant combined for 72 points in the Phoenix win. The duo is averaging a combined 69.7 per game this season and has averaged 74.7 points per contest over their last three games. The Suns converted 25 points off turnovers to the Cavs' 19 in last Wednesday's loss.

"It kills you. When you're playing a team like this, who has the firepower that they do offensively, you can't afford to have those empty possessions. They've got guys that know how to convert. They make you pay."

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff

The Cavs are just five games away from the end of the regular season, leaving little time to push for 50 wins for the second straight season. A red-hot mid-season run in December has nearly slowed to a halt as Cleveland has won two of its last five games and four of its last ten. The Cavs won three of their last five games of the 2022-23 regular season, capping off a solid end to a historic year that saw Cleveland punch its ticket to the playoffs for the first time in nearly five seasons.

Cavaliers look to regain momentum against the Lakers

The Cavs will travel to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers one day after South Carolina and Iowa advanced to the Women's NCAA Tournament Championship Game at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Cleveland is 16-11 against Western Conference opponents and 4-4 against squads from the Pacific Division. Cleveland lost its last matchup against the Lakers in November, falling in a 121-115 loss at home as LA forward Anthony Davis logged 32 points and 13 rebounds.

The Lakers sit at a record of 44-33, putting them on par with the Sacramento Kings and at about ninth in the Western Conference. LA sports a 27-12 home record and went 6-3 at home in March. Los Angeles has won its last three matchups against the Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. It has won eight of its last 10 games, including in bouts against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. LA's matchup with Cleveland will be its first home game since a win over the Indiana Pacers on March 24.

Though the Lakers are toward the bottom of the West and are fighting to maintain their Play-In position, they will likely enter their game against Cleveland with an impassioned desire to exit with a win. The Lakers have a lot to gain and even more to lose with few games left to establish a rhythm for the postseason. On the other side, the Cavs desperately need to steal some extra wins to maintain their top-three place in the East.

To secure the win, the Cavs must bring their defense back up to their old standards to hold off a Lakers offense that has recently found its stride. LA has logged an offensive rating of 117.3 over its last 10 games, dramatically improving upon a slower offensive approach from most of the season. This figure puts it just ahead of the Atlanta Hawks for seventh place among NBA squads in the same span. The Cavs' rating of 113.0 over the same span puts it on pace with the Dallas Mavericks at 19th.

Cleveland's defensive rating of 119.6 over its last 10 games put it behind the Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets for 27th in the league. As a team defined by their defense, this must be the first area to change in order to reclaim their former strength. Cleveland has allowed 122 points or more in two of its last three matchups, including 130 points against the Denver Nuggets to end the month of March.

Additionally, the Cavaliers will need to see more scoring from the bench to claim back-to-back victories during their weekend in Los Angeles. Cleveland's bench has logged an offensive rating of 53.2 this season. The figure is an improvement from last season's rating of 51.6, but it is still not enough to break the top 20 in bench offensive ratings. The Lakers' 28.7 bench points per game puts them at 26th in the league this season. They recorded a total of 12 bench points in their most recent victory over the Wizards.

The Cavaliers will tip off against the Lakers at 3:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday in Arena. The game will be broadcast on WUAB CW 43.

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