Coachís Corner: Don Casey on Cavs at Lakers
By Don Casey (As told to John Hareas)


Casey

The LeBron-Kobe matchup will be a very interesting, high-scoring event between both of them. Since Kobeís impressive scoring streak, heís brought a little bit more buzz and pizzazz to Lakers basketball, which had been lying dormant for awhile. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers embark on an important six-game road trip that will reveal how well they can adjust without Larry Hughes. After the Lakers, the Cavs will visit the Suns, Blazers, Nuggets, Warriors and Jazz. At 20-12, itís important that the Cavs donít take a step back on this trip. The way they looked against the Knicks on Wednesday, Iím not sure that they wonít.

CLEVELAND'S KEYS TO THE GAME

The Cavaliers should look to post up LeBron against Kobe.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The Cavs record may be 2-2 without Hughes but it itís apparent that they miss him immensely. The ball is now in other peopleís hands and they havenít gotten used to it. Plus, itís obvious they miss Hughesí ability to spread the floor and break people down. The Cavs need to post LeBron up more, which would put a lot of pressure on Kobe if he ends up guarding him. I think LeBron is a great back-to-the basket player and the Cavs donít use him enough in that role. Without Hughes in the lineup, opposing teams have keyed on LeBron, which has given his teammates plenty of scoring opportunities. The only problem is theyíre not taking advantage of them. Particularly, Damon Jones, who has scored only 25 points in his last eight games. Mired in a shooting slump, Jones has made only 8-of-42 field goals in those games, shooting 19 percent. He and Eric Snow scored a combined for five points against the Knicks the other night. If Jones couldnít find his shooting stroke in Cleveland, is he going to find it on the road?

The Cavs need to shore up their perimeter defense and fast. The other night against the Knicks, Jamal Crawford was going to the hoop at will against Jones. If they donít improve in this area, theyíre going to lose a lot of games on this road trip.

L.A.'S KEYS TO THE GAME

Kobe is scoring a lot yet it doesnít seem that he is going about it in a selfish way and scoring all of these points at his teamís expense. His points seem to be flowing with what the Lakers are doing and he hasnít had to force his shots because theyíre running the offense more effectively. I think Kobe has more 40 point games in him than people think. I like Chris Mihm, I think he has very good upside and Brian Cook is playing very well and is a threat. It seems that Lamar Odom is getting closer to the basket and is taking those type of shots while getting to the line more, which has contributed to bringing his average up. Look for Kobe and Odom to take it to the hole and challenge Drew Gooden and Zydrunas Ilgauskas with the hopes of getting them in foul trouble. The Cavs look to them for blocked shots, which theyíre pretty good at but it has also led to foul trouble and if those two are in foul trouble, who are they going to go to?

BOTTOM LINE

The Cavs need to start their road trip on a winning note because their next game doesnít get any easier at Phoenix. Players such as Snow and Jones need to step up and since Hughes isnít coming back any time soon, the Cavs need to find a way to finish better and do a better job holding leads. The Lakers have 10 of their next 13 on the road and at 18-16 they certainly donít want to fall behind .500. Tonightís game will be a highlight show featuring two of the gameís more exciting players in LeBron and Kobe.

-- Don Casey appears courtesy of the National Basketball Coaches Association