After a strong win to break their losing streak, the Los Angeles Lakers will head to Cleveland on Saturday for a matchup against the defending champion Cavaliers.
The game will be a special one as Timofey Mozgov will make his triumphant return to Cleveland for the first time and will likely be presented with his championship ring before the game.
As usual, Mozgov will also be an important part of how the Lakers compete against the Cavs in a tough matchup on the second night of a back-to-back. The Lakers’ defense looked miles better in Friday night’s win – albeit against the worst defense in the league. The Cavs are a different animal however, and the Lakers will need Mozgov to protect the paint flawlessly so that they can get out on the bevy of shooters on the perimeter.
The Lakers will need help from another veteran in Luol Deng who will likely have the thankless task of guarding LeBron James. If LA wants any chance of competing throughout this game, they cannot have James shred their defense with his balance of scoring and passing.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, LeBron is not the only weapon on this team as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are nearly as dangerous with the ball in their hands. This matchup will test the Lakers’ focus and intensity on the defensive end. Making mistakes against a LeBron-led team can be disastrous.
One particularly interesting matchup will be Julius Randle facing off against Kevin Love. Randle will have to be focused to not lose Love on the defensive end. Offensively, putting the Cavs’ power forward in the pick and roll could lead to an effective two-man game between Randle and D’Angelo Russell. Coming off a career-high 25 points, Randle will look to continue his strong play.
Expecting a win may be too much considering the schedule circumstances and the level of team the Lakers will be playing. However, if there’s one thing to take away from this season, it’s that the Purple and Gold do not have much quit in them. Fans should expect the team to play competitively regardless of the results or the margin of scoring.
The game will air on Spectrum Sportsnet at 4:30 PM PST.