Jordan Hill vs. Cleveland
Jordan Hill attempts a hook shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 14, 2014.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Lakers vs. Cavaliers: 10 Things to Know (1/15/14)

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers meet up with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

1) Nick Young is currently the NBA’s top free throw shooter, having made each of his last 30 foul shots, which puts him at 91-for-99 (91.9 percent) this season. Young, who has missed a free throw in just six of his 29 games this season, is barely ahead of Kyle Korver (91.7 percent) and Stephen Curry (91.5 percent) atop the league’s leaderboard.

2) Many of the participants in Thursday’s game are especially familiar with their opponent. Head coach Byron Scott was at Cleveland’s helm for three seasons (2010-13), while Carlos Boozer spent his first two NBA seasons as a Cavalier (2002-04) and Wayne Ellington played the second half of the 2012-13 season under Scott in Cleveland. On the other side, Cavaliers assistant coaches Tyronn Lue (1998-2001) and Larry Drew (1989-91) both spent time as Lakers during their playing careers.

3) Kobe Bryant and LeBron James will be facing each other for the first time in nearly two years, as the two last met on Feb. 10, 2013. James has recently enjoyed more head-to-head success, as his teams have won seven of their last eight games against Bryant’s.

4) With James missing eight straight games due to injury before returning Tuesday, the Cavaliers have plummeted into a free fall, losing nine of their last 10 contests. Cleveland hasn’t even been able to keep the score close during this stretch, falling by an average final of 103-91, while losing by double digits six times. The Cavaliers, who were scoring 103.0 points before this slump, have been unable to find their shot, as their field goal percentage dropped from 46.5 percent before the slide to 40.1 percent during it — which is the NBA’s second-worst mark during this time period.

Cavaliers Shot Chart (Last 10 Games)
Cavaliers Shot Chart (Last 10 Games)

5) Despite scoring his fewest points per game (25.5) since his rookie season, James is still one of the NBA’s most lethal threats. The four-time NBA MVP boasts the league’s second-highest scoring average behind James Harden (26.9), while leading non-point guards with a team-best 7.5 assists per contest.

6) With James out, Kyrie Irving picked up the scoring load, averaging 24.4 points with two 35-point games in his captain’s stead. Irving is pitching in 20.7 points and 5.2 assists, which puts him and James on pace to become just the fifth pair of teammates in league history to each average 20 points and five assists.

7) Kevin Love has been a nightmare for the Lakers recently. The first-year Cavalier is averaging 27.2 points on 50.0 percent shooting with 13.5 rebounds in his last six games against L.A. Love’s relationship with the Lakers goes back before he was even born, as his father, Stan, played 81 games over two seasons with L.A. from 1973 to 1975.

8) Cleveland recently imported Timofey Mozgov from Denver, and he has responded by contributing 8.3 points and 8.7 rebounds in his first three games with the Cavaliers. Mozgov already has history with Cleveland head coach David Blatt, who led the St. Petersburg native and the rest of the Russian national team to a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

9) This matchup pits two of the NBA’s most porous defenses against one another, as the Cavaliers allow the second-highest opponent field goal percentage (47.1), while the Lakers yield the third-highest (46.9). Cleveland’s opponents also dish out the league’s most assists (25.3), and — though Mozgov’s addition should help — shoot the second-highest percentage at the rim (55.8).

10) One area that the Cavaliers defense has excelled at has been keeping opponents away from the charity stripe. Cleveland is yielding the league’s fewest free throws attempted (18.4) and made (13.9). The Cavaliers are currently on pace to tie the 2011-12 Lakers for the fewest trips to the foul line permitted per game in NBA history.

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