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Lakers vs. Cavaliers Preview: Battle against size and length

Can either the Lakers’ or Cavs’ defenses stop the opponent’s mediocre offense from succeeding?

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

The Lakers are headed back to the east coast where they will play their next three games. The first stop will be in Cleveland where LeBron James returns home to take on the Cavaliers. The team will finish out the month of November with a four-game road trip.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

When: 4:30 p.m. PT, Nov. 25

Where: Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

With the first month of the season out of the way, it is fair to say that we’ve seen three different versions of this Lakers team:

1. The team that approaches in-season tournament games like it’s a do-or-die Playoff battle

2. A Lakers team that just loves to keep games close and then cram their way to victory in the fourth quarter

3. A sluggish-looking team on the second night of a back-to-back that has a penchant for fake comebacks

We’ve seen each version appear in the last two weeks when the Lakers won five out of seven games in a span of 10 days. Looking back, their recent stretch was actually quite impressive considering that two of their losses were against the Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back. Going 5-2 in this stretch was a great way to make up for those losses, particularly when they weren’t healthy early this month.

Now, the Lakers will enter another five-game stretch, four of which will be played on the road, before the knockout round of the In-Season Tournament takes place. The question is which version of this team will show up in the next five and can they build off their recent winning ways? That’s something worth looking forward to against a challenging opponent on Saturday.

A Cavs team with size and length

What makes the Cavaliers a tough matchup is that their length and size impose problems for the Lakers. The purple and gold rank fourth in the league in points in the paint per game (48.6) and because they’re a below-average 3-point shooting team, they produce most of their points inside. Led by Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley, the Cavaliers have the tools to contain the Lakers’ best source of scoring.

It’ll be interesting to see how Los Angeles finds ways to attack the game. Will they need an impressive performance from either one of James or Davis? Will they have to attempt more 3-pointers than usual and just hope they all go in?

Note that as of writing, the purple and gold now rank dead last in the league in 3-pointers made per game (10.1). Their opponents are going to keep challenging them to shoot every time. The Lakers have to make sure that their weaknesses don’t cost them enough in this one.

As for the Cavaliers’ weaknesses, they’re not a good offensive team as they rely heavily on Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell to carry the scoring load. Like the Lakers, the Cavs don’t shoot the three-ball at a high rate but rebound the ball well. If the Lakers’ defense shows up in this one — yes that includes their defensive rebounding — then they have a good shot at winning this game.

It would also be nice if the Lakers prevented one of the Cavaliers’ role players from having an exceptional night. No one outside of Mitchell and Garland averages more than 17.5 points in this team. The last thing the Lakers want is someone like Max Struss or Caris LeVert to turn into an All-Star for the night. This game will be decided based on whose defense can prevent their opponent’s mediocre offense from succeeding.

Let’s see if the Lakers can be that team and whether or not they start their four-game road trip on a pleasant note.

Notes and Updates:

  • The Lakers are currently 4-7 against teams above .500. Saturday’s game against the Cavs (8-7) is the perfect opportunity to improve that record.
  • For the Lakers’ injury report, Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis), Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion) and Rui Hachimura (nasal fracture) are listed as out. Anthony Davis (left adductor/hip spasm) is probable while LeBron James (left calf contusion) and Cam Reddish (left adductor soreness) are questionable.
  • As for the Cavs, Donovan Mitchell (hamstring) and Issac Okoro (knee) are questionable. Ty Jerome (ankle), and Rick Rubio (personal) and Dean Wade (ankle) are out.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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