What to look for in the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers


The Cleveland Cavaliers (46-31), who have not won consecutive games since late February, continue their West Coast road trip in Los Angeles against the red-hot Lakers (44-33). The Lakers have won eight of their last 10 games and three in a row, although all against non-playoff teams. Meanwhile, the Cavs are still trying to find some semblance of consistency as the playoffs approach.

What: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers

Where: Arena

When: 3:30 p.m. EST

How to watch: SportsNet LA, CW43

Line: LAL -4.5

Cavs expected starting lineup: Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Mac Strus, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Cavs Injury Report: Ty Jerome (Ankle, OUT), Dean Wade (Knee, OUT), Craig Porter (Illness, PROBABLE), Isaac Okoro (Toe, OUT), Emoni Bates (G League, OUT)

Expected Lakers starting lineup: D'Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Lakers Injury Report: LeBron James (Ankle, QUESTIONABLE), Anthony Davis (Knee, QUESTIONABLE), Christian Wood (Knee, OUT), Jared Vanderbilt (Foot, OUT), Jalen Hood-Schifino (Back, OUT)

What to look for: a full 48-minute effort

After the Cavs' loss to the Denver Nuggets, Donovan Mitchell was succinct in his assessment of the team: “We've got to figure it out.” Since that game, the Cavs defeated a bad Utah Jazz team and then allowed the Phoenix Suns to score in the first To score 72 points at halftime, which corresponds to a loss of 21 points. They fought harder in the second half, but the damage was done.

This is nothing new for the Cavs this season, nor last. You take your foot off the accelerator or apply minimal effort when it matters most. Head coach JB Bickerstaff praised Cleveland's second-half performance against Phoenix, but what happened in the first? At this stage of the season, there is no excuse for minimal effort – especially in the fight for a decisive playoff place.

The Cavs face a championship team consisting of the Nuggets, Suns, Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. All of these teams have had difficult postseasons, especially James and the Lakers. He knows better than anyone what it takes to qualify for the playoffs and has experience recruiting players around him. The Cavs need to have that sense of urgency and put on their extra gear.

One stat to watch out for: the rebounding struggle

This may sound like a broken record, but which team wins on the glass will be a big indicator of who wins this game. In the Cavs' last four losses, they have been outrebounded by a total of 48 boards. All but one (Charlotte) of those games came against playoff teams, a concerning statistic for a team on the verge of a critical postseason.

As things currently stand, the Cavs would play the Heat in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami outscored the Cavs by 14 points in the last meeting between the two teams, a narrow 40-point loss to the Heat. The double-big lineup in the Cavs' rollout should be excellent at rebounding, but they are surprisingly sluggish. Lineups with Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley allow opponents to rebound their own 27% of the time, per Cleaning the Glass, good for the 46th percentile. The Cavs have 11 other two-man lineups that average more total rebounds per game than Mobley and Allen, according to NBA stats.

The Lakers are an average rebounding team, right next to the Cavs at 18th in the league, and they rank last in offensive rebounds per game. The last time these two teams played, Cleveland lost the rebounding battle by seven boards – resulting in a six-point loss for the Cavs. With James and Anthony Davis firing on all cylinders lately, the Cavs need to step it up a notch – otherwise the Lakers will steamroll them like the Suns and Nuggets did.