The Cleveland Cavaliers have created a small bit of separation for themselves as the worst team in the NBA. With just eight wins, they trail the Bulls Knicks, and Suns with 10. Coming into the year, there was some concern the Cavs might not be able to keep their top-10 protected pick. Those fears are gone, but it’s not exactly reassuring to see them play this poorly. They’ll travel to Los Angeles on Sunday night and face off against their former star and MVP’s team, LeBron James. He’ll simply be watching, as he continues to miss time with a groin injury.
The Lakers find themselves needing every win they can get. At 23-20 they are currently the West’s eighth seed, and there’s enough quality behind them to feel like they can’t be comfortable. It’s far from panic time, and they’ll get James back, but a home game against the Cavs is close to must win. It would also feel like a game you could purely enjoy if the Cavs somehow pulled it out. In short, this could be a fun game.
Who? Cleveland Cavaliers (8-35) at Los Angeles Lakers (23-20)
When? 9:30 p.m. EST
Where? Staples Center — Los Angeles, California
Where on my eyeballs? Fox Sports Ohio, NBA League Pass
Cavs status update: Kevin Love (Foot - OUT), John Henson (Wrist - OUT), Larry Nance Jr.(MCL - OUT), J.R. Smith (Not with team), David Nwaba (Ankle - OUT), Rodney Hood (Achilles sprain - Questionable)
Lakers status update: LeBron James (groin - OUT), Rajon Rondo (finger - OUT)
Three talking points
- Can the Cavs slow down a bad Lakers offense?
The Lakers come into this game with the 21st best offensive rating in the NBA. Again, LeBron James isn’t playing. The Cavs have the worst defense in the league, and really one of the worst defenses of all time. They’ve given up 281 points in their last two games. If there was a game to start defending and build on some positivity, maybe it would be this one. Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram will take the bulk of the scoring load on; Kuzma has started to figure out how to do it efficiently, but Ingram has not.
2. What is Lonzo Ball?
Ball is playing 30 minutes a game, shooting 41 percent from the free throw line, and attempting just one of them per game. He averages under 10 points per game. He’s shooting 40.1 percent from the field, and just 33 percent from three point range. He’s a talented passer, and I’ve seen some positive things about his defense, but how do you construct a modern NBA offense around a guard with a true shooting rate of 48.3? I don’t know. Just hard more me to be a big fan.
3. Where are the Cavs’ heads at?
Quite simply, the Cavs have been getting beat up game in and game out. They are not healthy. Against the Rockets you saw some open frustration from Alec Burks and some of the other veterans. A win would go a long ways, but that also feels pretty far away right now. You expect young players like Collin Sexton to struggle defending, but it would be nice to see him have a great offensive game and lift the team up. Or anyone, really.
Fear the Sword’s Fearless prediction: The Lakers just have more to play for. Los Angeles 109, Cleveland, 101.