(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)
3 Things to Know: Lakers at Cavaliers (12/14/17)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers finish their road trip by visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers.
1) Look for B.I. to stay aggressive
In the Lakers’ last game, Brandon Ingram’s trademark scoring off slashes was neutralized by the league’s top rim protector, 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porzingis.
Ingram shot just 2-of-12 from the field, tallying five points after hitting double figures in all of his previous 11 games.
However, Ingram remained aggressive as a playmaker, finishing the night with five assists, mostly off those drives that failed to get his own offense going.
At the request of coach Luke Walton, Ingram has lately used his driving more as a vehicle to open up scoring for teammates. In his first 16 games, he had only one game with five-plus assists; in his last 10, he has six.
Ingram has also seen his turnovers swell during this stretch, but that’s a price Walton and staff can manage with a 20-year-old playing the most aggressive basketball in his young career.
The Cavaliers don’t have a world-class rim protector like Porzingis, so Ingram will have a better shot at attacking the paint himself in this game.
But it’s just as important that he keeps making plays like the one below, as he beats his man, which starts a chain reaction.
Porzingis has to challenge Ingram at the hoop, so Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s defender must rotate to cover Larry Nance Jr. Ingram sees this and whips a tough pass to KCP for the trey.
2) Kuz is finding ways to stay involved
Kyle Kuzma sent Tuesday’s game to overtime with a clutch 3-pointer, but he has recently shown off more than just his scoring ability.
Over the last two games, he has left his mark as a rebounder. In Saturday’s win over Charlotte, he grabbed a season-best 14 boards. In each game he had three offensive rebounds, which he converted into four put-back buckets and an assist.
Not all rebounds hold the same value. These ones from Kuzma — contested, possession-saving boards that get converted into points — are the types that win games.
It’s not a coincidence that Kuzma’s scoring goes up (as does the Lakers’ likelihood of winning) when he grabs more rebounds.
3) Zo is up against his idol
Lonzo Ball had just turned 6 years old when LeBron James made his NBA debut. He was in eighth grade when James won his first NBA title.
Nearly all of Ball’s life has been consumed by basketball, and LeBron was at the center of it as his favorite player.
After Tuesday’s game in New York, Ball said that he always liked how James had the ability to chuck and score 50 points at will, but instead always made the play that gave his team the best chance at succeeding.
Now Lonzo will get the opportunity to see this for himself, as he faces LeBron for the very first time.
“King James” might be 15 years into his career, but he still owns a nearly undisputed claim to the title of world’s best player.
The 32-year-old has shown no signs of deterioration, ranking third in the NBA in both scoring (28.2) and assists (9.0). He has been practically unstoppable on isolations and in the paint, and steps up in winning time with a league-leading 9.2 points per fourth quarter.
Armed with an improved 3-point shot (career-high 42.2 percent) and talented teammates (including Kevin Love, Kyle Kover and Dwyane Wade), LeBron has led the Cavaliers to victory in 15 of their last 16 games.
The Lakers will need one of their best defensive performances of the year in order to quell Cleveland’s high-powered offense.
Cavaliers: Dwyane Wade (left knee soreness) is TBD. Derrick Rose (left ankle sprain), Iman Shumpert (left knee arthroscopic surgery) and Isaiah Thomas (right hip) are out.
Tip-Off: 5 p.m. PT
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Location: Quicken Loans Arena — Cleveland, Ohio