Los Angeles Lakers (32-9) vs
Cleveland Cavaliers (32-11)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Thursday, January 21, 2010
8:00 PM EST
I’ll take the blame for this one. I just mentioned the other day to a friend of mine that I was concerned that the Cavaliers have been remarkably healthy for the most part over the past 2 seasons. Well, now the seemingly unthinkable has happened, and Mo Williams is out with an injury. Other than LeBron himself, Mo Williams has shown himself to be a physical specimen over the last couple seasons in Cleveland, impervious to injury and fighting his way through any little tweaks/twists he might incur along the way. Now he will be missing some time with his sprained shoulder (upgraded from the initial ‘strained shoulder’ diagnosis) and the Cavaliers are in some trouble.
If anything, this signifies why the Cavaliers still need to make a trade, because an injury to Mo leaves LeBron without a scoring sidekick. Someone is going to have to step up in a major way for the Cavaliers in this game. Last time out the Cavs had their way with the Lakers, but that’s all going to change tonight without Jamario Moon and Mo Williams. Hopefully Jawad Williams can continue to play admirably in Moon’s spot and Boobie Gibson can knock off all his rust and pick up right where he left off. Otherwise, this could be an ugly one tonight.
Projected Starting Lineups
Los Angeles Lakers:
-G Derek Fisher (7.1 ppg, 2.7 apg, 1.1 spg, 8.86 PER)
-G Kobe Bryant (28.3 ppg, 4.5 apg, .316 3P%, 23.47 PER)
-F Ron Artest (11.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.4 apg, 12.96 PER)
-F Pau Gasol (17.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 22.99 PER)
-C Andrew Bynum (15.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 19.76 PER)
Key Reserves: Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell, Luke Walton
Injuries: Kobe Bryant (probable), Luke Walton (probable), Sasha Vujacic (probable)
-G Delonte West (7.5 ppg, 2.9 apg, .371 3P%, 13.75 PER)
-G Anthony Parker (7.3 ppg, 1.7 apg, .473 3P%, 9.77 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 7.8 apg, 31.30 PER)
-F JJ Hickson (6.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 12.75 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (10.7 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.1 bpg, 16.40 PER)
Key Reserves: Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Daniel Gibson, Jawad Williams)
Injuries: Mo Williams (out), Jamario Moon (out), Leon Powe (out)
Team Efficiency Stats
Los Angeles Lakers:
-Off (103.5 ppg, 45.2 rpg, .458 FG%, 22.2 apg, 13.7 TOpg, Eff-105.7, Rank-12)
-Def (96.4 ppg, 43.0 rpg, .435 FG%, Eff-98.4, Rank-2)
-Off (101.1 ppg, 42.0 rpg, .484 FG%, 21.5 apg, 14.7 TOpg, Eff-108.2, Rank-5)
-Def (94.6 ppg, 37.7 rpg, .438 FG%, Eff-100.4, Rank-4)
- Cleveland 102 at LA Lakers 87 – 12/25/09 [box]
I really don’t have a great feeling about this game. The Lakers are just too good of a team to have to try to figure out how to get by without your 2nd best player for the first time all year. The Lakers are an even better defensive team than the Cavaliers are as it is, and now the Cavs must try to find ways to score without Mo. This is not going to be easy.
Historically Ron Artest has done a pretty solid job on LeBron James, holding him to an average of 24.7 ppg when the two have played against each other. However, in recent years as age has begun to catch up to Artest, LeBron has been getting better, averaging 27.0 ppg against Artest’s teams. Well, for the Cavaliers to win, either someone unexpected is going to have to have a monster game to replace Mo’s input in the victory on Christmas Day or else LeBron is going to have to score a lot more than 27 points.
Not having Jamario Moon this time around is another serious challenge as he played very well against the Lakers last time, helping the Cavs hold Lamar Odom to 6 points. Jawad Williams has shown himself to be a pretty solid replacement for Moon. In fact, looking at their numbers, when Jamario is in the game, the Cavs score 108.9 points per 100 possessions and give up 102.1 points for a net +6.9 per 100 possessions. When Jawad is in the game, the Cavaliers score 109.8 points per 100 possessions and give up 102.8 points for a net +7.0 per 100 possessions. I kind of scooped myself out of a subject that really deserves its own post there, but the point is that Jawad Williams’ numbers in Moon’s place have been staggeringly similar. The Cavs will need that kind of production out of Jawad in this game.
Just as they did last time, the Cavaliers will try to bother the Lakers with size by using plenty of big lineups. That means Shaq and Z together again, and that means heavy minutes for Varejao. Last time out, Varejao was +20 and Ilgauskas was +21 while Gasol was –21 and Odom was –18. Bynum was never much of a factor with Shaq and Z defending him, recording just 4 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes of action. The Cavaliers defense in the paint is stellar, and we know this, but it’s up to the Cavs to come out with the mindset to live up to that reputation.
The biggest thing the Cavs have going for them is that the Lakers’ offense plays right into the Cavaliers’ defensive strengths. The Lakers have one of the worst PG corps in the NBA, and none of them are serious threats to break down the Cavs with the dribble. Plus, that’s not the Lakers’ style. The Lakers don’t get out and run at all. Instead, they will set up everything in their half court offense and try to generate opportunities from there. The Cavs will welcome this with open arms, as they are more than comfortable with that kind of game, especially this season now that the Cavaliers have the weapons and the intentions to properly to defend the interior.
If you can keep a seal in the paint on defense, you can seriously frustrate this Lakers offense and get them to panic and start shooting more from the outside. Once you’ve done this, you’re in good shape as the Lakers are not a good shooting team at all. In fact, again, looking back to last matchup, Kobe Bryant had 35 points on 32 FGA. This is precisely the type of game the Cavaliers will hope to force Kobe into once again.
Now, having said all that, the Lakers are the best team in the NBA and they boast a 32-9 record for a reason. This is a great, great basketball team and even though you know exactly how you need to play them to beat them, they are so good that it often doesn’t even matter. They will still operate their offense and generate easy basket after easy basket until your defensive will is broken, and then Kobe will take over and put the game away. If the Cavaliers don’t come into this game with their focus properly in place, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
On offense, the Cavaliers need to run their offense more than ever against the Lakers. LA is the best team in the NBA at defending the 3, and with Mo out anyway, the Cavs need to find other ways to score. The Lakers are surprisingly susceptible in the paint, and this is why the Cavs need to keep the ball moving and to keep swinging it from side to side. You can create some easy baskets of your own inside against the Lakers, but you have to be patient and you must, must, MUST have weak side movement away from the ball. Without it, the Lakers will force you to shoot contested shots from the outside with the 24 second clock expiring. This will be the challenge tonight for the Cavaliers.
From The Outside Looking In
Next Game For The Cavaliers
Saturday, January 23, 2010
7:30 PM EST
Oklahoma City Thunder at Cleveland Cavaliers