Thankfully the schedule has lightened up for our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers. After a rough start to the schedule, the Cavs now get a chance to build back towards a .500 record and snap a losing streak against a pretty weak opponent. Furthermore, the Cavaliers will be happy to welcome back someone who they have been desperately missing. That's right -- Antawn Jamison.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (4-17) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (9-12)
When? 7:00 PM Eastern
Where? Quicken Loans Arena -- Cleveland, OH
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio / NBA League Pass
Can I still get tickets? Cleveland Cavaliers tickets
Injury report: Kyrie Irving is BACK. Dion Waiters is still QUESTIONABLE with ankle sprain.
The enemy/brother blog? Silver Screen and Roll
The Lakers are 9-12 after Metta World Peace predicted that they could tie the 1996 Chicago Bulls record 72 wins. They have a bunch of stars on their roster, but are on pace to miss the playoffs. Think they feel some pressure? Let's ask Billy.
The Cavaliers played 11 games without Kyrie Irving and won just two of those games. Tonight, they get their best player back (yes, he is still their best player -- don't you forget it) and will be playing against a rather porous Lakers defense. According to Hoopsstats.com, opposing point guards are averaging roughly 22 points and 9.5 assists per game against the Lakers. AVERAGE. Kyrie Irving is not average. Chris Duhon should have a fun night with that assignment.
Dwight Howard and Steve Nash were brought to Hollywood to win ring number six for Kobe Bryant. I mean think about it, Pau Gasol, Dwight, Nash, and Kobe -- ring number six is a lock, right? Well as of December 11th, we're still waiting for those four players to play six GAMES together. Nash is still out with a fractured shin and Gasol is out with tendinitis in both knees. Meanwhile, Kobe Byrant is having one of his most efficient seasons ever, yet the Lakers are just 1-9 when he scores 30 points or more. It's like I don't even have to troll the Lakers, they're doing it to themselves.
In the Lakers' most recent loss to the Utah Jazz (a game in which they allowed 117 points), they used a 3-man combination of Jamison- Jodie Meeks - Chris Duhon for 10 minutes. In those 10 minutes, the Lakers allowed 34 points, which translates to a defensive efficiency of 181.3 points per 100 possessions. I can only hope that Mike D'Antoni doesn't read this site or follow me on Twitter, because I hope he uses those guys all at the same time again against Cleveland. I'm sure Kyrie picked on Jamison in practice last year and I'm damn excited to see it in an actual game.
The Cavaliers are obviously no juggernaut themselves, but at least they weren't supposed to win 60+ games. Anderson Varejao and Jeremy Pargo have been pleasant surprises and the Lakers may be one of the only teams in the league with a bench unit as terrible as the Cavaliers. Alonzo Gee should be able to do a decent job on Kobe and Andy should make Dwight work all night long.
The real story, of course is that the Cavs' offense is opened up significantly with the return of Kyrie. He's by far their best scorer as well as their best playmaker. Varejao is shooting 56% from the field with Kyrie on the court and just 45% when Kyrie is out. The reigning ROY makes everything easier for everybody else, as well as putting constant pressure on a shaky defense. Look for the Cavs to push hard in transition, as Kobe and various other Lakers have displayed zero interest in getting back to play D.
I'll be interested to see if Byron Scott opts to Hack-A-Howard if the opportunity presents itself. He said that he told the Cavs to purposely hack Andre Drummond if he caught the ball deep in the paint when Cleveland played the Pistons. With Howard shooting a career-low 47% from the charity stripe, it may be advantageous for the Cavs to put him on the line and take the Lakers out of the flow of their offense.
I'll get to the prediction and such later today with more preview coverage leading up to the game. For now, enjoy Jamison, Howard, and Kobe all choosing to not rotate at all on defense while Russell Westbrook dunks all over their faces.