Cleveland at L.A. Lakers
Time: 10:30 PM EST
Spread: CLE -6.5
M/L: CLE -265; LAL +225
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had a rough going despite the preseason expectations that came along with LeBron James’ return to Cleveland and the acquisition of Kevin Love. Together, with Kyrie Irving, this was supposed to be the Cavs chance to return to contention.
Instead, the team is one game under .500 and just 6.5 points favorites in NBA live lines against a horrible L.A. Lakers team (12-27). NBA oddsmakers set the total at 204, which seems precariously high with regard to the Lakers’ futility offensively.
The Lakers real problem, though, is defensively. The team is allowing 106.8 points per game, ranking next-to-last in the NBA. On Tuesday night, L.A. lost to the Miami Heat, getting just 12 points and seven assists from Kobe Bryant. Kobe is averaging 22.7 points per game this year, but is posting a PER just barely above average (17.3). His passing skills have been more on display, but only because there are no real playmakers on the team other than the turnover-prone Jeremy Lin. Nick Young is a chucker; Carlos Boozer an old man.
Jordan Hill has been promising and has held his own with tough interior defenses, finishing well around the hole to average 12 points and nearly eight boards a game. But beyond these disappointments and Hill’s promise is a team lacking in talent. Ed Davis is a good finisher and Tarik Black is nice energy off the bench, but this Lakers team is horrible, and there’s not really any other way to spin it.
For as bad as the team is, though, the Cavs have hardly been red-hot, and L.A. could sneak out with a win. It’s especially possible given the fact that the Lakers are 6-5 against Eastern Conference teams and a passable 6-13 on the road. It is a team with the second-worst point differential in the West, and only worsted by the Minnesota Timberwolves, but the Lakers would be in the hunt in the putrid East.
Cleveland has dropped six straight and won just one of the last 10 games. A huge reason for the disappointment has been the mediocre play of Kevin Love. He is a shell of the 20 point, 15 rebound self he was in Minnesota, and Dan Gilbert made it clear he is far from guaranteed a max-contract. Love accepted the words, and maybe it drives him to pick up his play.
The former UCLA Bruin will be needed to stretch the court and be a tertiary scoring option alongside Kyrie Irving and LBJ. Love still snags 10.4 boards a game, but that’s an off year for him. The real problem has been his shooting. Love is just 43.6 percent from the floor and 34.1 percent from three. He’s still taking 13.4 field goal attempts per game, so he’s been plenty involved in the offense.
But J.R. Smith will do whatever he can to change that. Smith has been conservative if there is such a thing for him, only jacking up 14.3 shots in 32 minutes a game. OK, that is a lot, but the reason Smith is in Cleveland is because Dion Waiters wasn’t hitting nor shooting the ball enough.
The Cavs need the offense, both in the second and first unit, because the results of the Big 3 have been so uninspiring. Rather than benefit and improve from LBJ’s presence, Kyrie Irving has been about as typical as ever for himself. He’s shooting well, but with James’ heavy role in the offense, Irving hasn’t had as many opportunities to create for his teammates, and he’s averaging just 5.2 assists per game.
The Cavs problems can all be fixed internally. The acquisition of Smith was a big move by Cavs brass, but that doesn’t mean more will necessarily be on the way. The team has options to move either Tristan Thompson, given the acquisition of Timofey Mozgov. Mozgov is a good shot blocker and rebounder who will help make up for what K-Love was supposed to provide, plus the added bonus of changing and rejecting shots.