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Lakers vs. Cavaliers Preview: With or without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, L.A. should come out on top

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If the Lakers play with the same fight they showed on Saturday, it should be an easy night at Staples Center, whether LeBron James and Anthony Davis suit up or not.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Coming off of an encouraging win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking to win their ninth game in a row when they host the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

The Cavaliers aren’t a good basketball team, as evidenced by their 12-27 record, but they’ve looked less sluggish in their last two games, beating the Detroit Pistons and, most notably, the Denver Nuggets. The fact that Tristan Thompson has averaged 26.5 points on 71% shooting from the field during that time certainly hasn’t hurt them, but it’s been the play of their young guards that has helped them the most.

Over the last two games, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland — the Cavs’ two most recent top-10 picks — have averaged a combined 41 points per game. What’s been even more impressive, though, is Garland’s playmaking. The 19-year-old has averaged 7.5 assists per game over the last two games, which has contributed to Thompson’s efficiency.

While Garland could just be enjoying a nice, two-game stretch, he seems to have a better general understanding of where he’s supposed to be and what he’s supposed to be doing. Monday’s game will be a good test for him and Sexton offensively.

Defensively, that guard tandem has struggled, allowing 116.4 points per 100 possessions in the 844 minutes they’ve shared the floor this season. Expect the Lakers to exploit that matchup early and often, especially in the pick and roll, where they can overpower the Cavs with their size.

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.

Notes and Updates

  • UPDATE: Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis will not play against the Cavaliers, while LeBron James and Avery Bradley will. Full details on their statuses — and pregame comments from Vogel — can be found here.
  • Kyle Kuzma has been on fire in the absence of Davis, averaging 31 points on 52.2% shooting from the field over the last two games. If Davis is cleared to play, it will be interesting to see what changes head coach Frank Vogel makes to ensure Kuzma doesn’t take another step back in his season-long progression.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.