Preview: Lakers visit Cleveland Cavaliers before All-Star break
While the Lakers have lost two straight, they’ve been competitive in defeat to the San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers.
On Wednesday, the Lakers (11-43) will play one final game before the All-Star break, visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers (37-14).
Cleveland has won two in a row, slowly adjusting to the coaching change with former Lakers guard Tyronn Lue promoted upon the firing of David Blatt.
The Cavs are mostly healthy, although Matthew Dellavedova has been dealing with a hamstring strain.
The Lakers will be without Larry Nance Jr. (knee), while Kobe Bryant (shoulder) is questionable, Roy Hibbert (ankle) is probable and Anthony Brown (ankle) is doubtful.
LeBron James, 31, may have a few challengers for best player in the league -- notably Golden State Warriors Stephen Curry -- but he’s still a serious candidate for NBA most valuable player.
If Bryant is able to make his final appearance in Cleveland, he’ll match up at small forward against James.
So far this season, James is averaging 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists a night. He’s shooting 50.3% from the field but just 27.0% from three-point range (a career low).
Meanwhile, Bryant is at 16.9 points a night on just 35.0% shooting -- over his past five the Lakers’ All-Star is scoring 26.4 points on 37.1% shooting.
Bryant’s efficiency is hit and miss, but in stretches, he’s caught fire to help carry the Lakers to victory or near wins.
The Cavs are far from a one-man show. The team also has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, along with role players like J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson.
Timofey Mozgov has taken a lesser role this season, but he always seems to give the Lakers a difficult time.
The Lakers are beginning to expect double-doubles from forward Julius Randle. Jordan Clarkson is regularly a double-figure scorer.
Veterans Brandon Bass and Lou Williams have proven to be dependable contributors.
While the Lakers struggle for wins, especially through a brutal 10-game losing streak, they’ve been much more competitive the past four games.
The Cavaliers are the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers have been surprisingly resilient lately, but they’re not likely to get the win in Cleveland on Wednesday.
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