Coach Luke Walton will remind the young Lakers team not to overlook a Cleveland Cavaliers squad with the worst record in the NBA at 8-35 and has the longest current losing streak in the league at 12 games.
He will remind the Lakers how they inexplicably dropped a game to a New York Knicks team that came to Staples Center 1½ weeks ago owning an eight-game losing streak and had lost 13 of 14.
Walton said after practice Saturday he won’t leave it to chance that his players comprehend what’s at stake on Sunday at Staples Center when they face a Cavaliers team that is struggling.
Walton has the recent Knicks game as a reference point and he will “absolutely” use it as a source.
“We got to learn from our past, learn from the mistakes we made,” Walton said. “Cleveland is very capable, like every team in the NBA. I know they have lost a lot in a row. I started scout work on them last night. They jumped out on New Orleans early and they were knocking down threes. Even the Houston game, they started that game all right. … So, they are very capable of playing and if we have that same mentality we did against the Knicks then there’s no reason they can’t beat us. And I expect us to learn from that. But, yeah, we’ll reference that.”
The Knicks (10-32) have lost three games in a row since beating the Lakers.
When the Lakers met the Cavaliers on Nov. 21, it took Los Angeles all it had to escape with a 109-105 victory. It took LeBron James, who was making his return to Cleveland for the first time since joining the Lakers last summer, having a monster game with 32 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The Lakers won’t have James this time, as he continues to recover from a strained left groin that has forced him to miss the last nine games. The Lakers have a 3-6 record without James, who sits on the bench near injured guard Rajon Rondo, who has missed those same nine games while recovering from surgery on his right ring finger.
So it’ll be left up to youngsters Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart to deal with an ineffective Cavaliers squad starving for a win.
The Cavaliers are averaging just 102.7 points per game, ranking them 28th in the league in scoring.
But, as Walton will remind his group, the Lakers can’t afford to look at the Cavaliers as easy fodder.
“I mean, they’re an NBA team,” Kuzma said. “At the end of the day, they can beat anybody so you can’t take them lightly. For us, we’ve been kind of up and down and they’ve been up and down too. So, you got to play it.”
Walton said Michael Beasley, who injured his hand at Utah and had X-rays that were negative for fractures, was a “full go” in practice Saturday and will play against the Cavaliers.
When: Sunday, 6:30 p.m.
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