The Lakers (2-6) face Cleveland (7-1) as they look to bounce back from a difficult loss that snapped their two-game winning streak on Friday night vs. the Jazz. The game is an early tip at 12:30 pm PT on Spectrum SportsNet.
Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:
Even after a defensive performance that coach Darvin Ham expressed disappointment in following Friday’s loss to the Jazz, the Lakers rank 5th in the NBA in defensive rating. The Cavaliers are a similarly strong defensive team, ranking 2n / a on that end. Both team’s success, however, comes in different ways.
The Lakers, leveraging their perimeter quickness and athleticism with LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing behind them as disruptors in the paint, focus on limiting shots at the rim, keeping the ball out of the paint, swarming and fronting the post, and then gang rebounding to closeout possessions. This approach leads to contested mid-range jumpers and steals as the team pressures the perimeter.
The Cavs, meanwhile, do an excellent job of funneling opponents into the paint where they are anchored by a huge frontline pairing of All-Star big man Jarrett Allen and 2n / a year sensation (and USC product) Evan Mobley. The Cavs use that size in the paint to be able to stay attached to their opponents on the perimeter, allowing them to contest shots and force missesall over the floor. Cleveland ranks 4th in 3-point field goal attempts and field goal percentage allowed, and 5th in overall field goal percentage allowed.
DONOVAN MITCHELL STARRING ON NEW TEAM
In an offseason of big-name trades and player movement, the Cavs might have made the biggest deal of them all when they acquired All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. Mitchell’s combination of scoring and playmaking seemed a natural fit for the up and coming Cavs, where he projected to slide right in next to all-star Darius Garland to form a potent and explosive backcourt.
Mitchell has been everything the Cavs could have hoped for after trading for him, averaging 31.1 points per game (5th in the NBA) to go along with 7.1 assists and 4.4 rebounds. Mitchell has been equally dynamic from distance and in-close, hitting 43.8% of his shots behind the arc on a whopping 9.1 attempts a night and 75% of his nearly six shots inside of 5-feet per game.
Slowing Mitchell down is no easy task and with Garland recently returning from an eye injury he suffered on opening night, the Cavs depth and balance in the backcourt will surely be a focus of the Lakers defense.
OFFENSE ON THE UPSWING
The Lakers are making incremental improvements offensively and have moved up to 29th in the NBA in offensive efficiency on the season (the Clippers are 30th). There are several factors contributing to the team’s increased offensive output, but a key driver is the progression to the mean from beyond the arc. The Lakers have shot over 40% from distance in two of their last three games, with multiple players contributing along the way.
Coach Ham remains confident in the Lakers ability to continue this upward trend offensively, noting the Lakers have “60,000 points in that locker room” in a reference to his all-star trio of LeBron, AD, and Russ. Westbrook, in particular, has really found his stride in recent games, highlighted by his team leading 26-point output vs. the Jazz. His command and aggressiveness coming off the bench has been a key driver of the team’s success vs. opponents’ 2n / a units.
LeBron, meanwhile, continues to lead the Lakers in scoring even while not shooting the ball to his customary level. LeBron is 12-58 (20.7%) on 3-pointers so far this season, but is a career 34.5% shooter from deep. As his numbers, like the team’s, continue to progress towards normal, we should expect to see a similar boost to the team’s overall success on that end.