Through 17 games this season, the Los Angeles Lakers have the best defensive rating (103.6) in the NBA. This time last year, they were ranked seventh in the league with a defensive rating of 103.2.
The team with the second best defensive rating in the NBA this season? The Cleveland Cavaliers, who were ranked 23rd in defensive rating through 17 games last season and ended the season with the worst defensive rating (114.8).
That’s guaranteed to change after they allowed the Boston Celtics to score 141 points against them on Sunday night, but the point still stands: they’ve been a great defensive team all season.
On Monday, the Lakers and Cavaliers will pin their defenses against each other for the first time this season, and the things that the Cavaliers do well makes them an interesting matchup for the Lakers.
For starters, the Cavaliers allow the sixth-fewest points in the paint per game (44.6), while the Lakers are ranked ninth in points in the paint per game (48.7). The Cavaliers are also ranked first in points generated off of turnovers (21.0) and 22nd in opponent points off of turnovers. The Lakers are 21st and 10, respectively.
In layman’s terms, the Cavaliers have an opportunity to be disruptive. However, if the game is going to come down to whose offense will break through first, the Lakers should feel pretty comfortable.
While the defensive end is where they’ve prided themselves for the past two years, they’re also one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, scoring 113.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s the sixth-most productive offense in the league. By stark contrast, the Cavaliers are ranked 29th despite the production they’ve been getting out of Colin Sexton and Darius Garland; a backcourt pairing lovingly known by “SexLand” in Cleveland.
It’s also worth noting that the Cavaliers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back, so they’ll have heavier legs than the Lakers. So, barring another uninspired performance from LeBron James, Anthony Davis or the bench unit, the Lakers should be able to stay unbeaten away from Staples Center.
The Lakers and Cavaliers will tip-off at 5 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet.
Notes and Updates
- Kostas Antetokounmpo (right knee patellar tendinitis) and Jared Dudley (right calf soreness) are out.
- LeBron James (left ankle sprain) is questionable. Anthony Davis is probable.