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Cleveland Cavaliers

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Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

January 14, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Laker Nation can admit it. The Los Angeles Lakers (14-23) currently find themselves stuck in a dire state as they play the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24) tonight–their final home game before they embark on a 7-game, 12-day Grammy road trip. This will be former Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown‘s first game back at Staples Center since the Lakers fired him after five games last season.

They suffered a huge embarrassing loss vs. inter-city rival Los Angeles Clippers 123-87 last Friday in front of a national audience. The Lakers allowed the Clippers to score 43 points in the first quarter and were outscored 31-8 in the third quarter.

The only Laker who has played at a high level during this losing streak is C/F Pau Gasol. Ever since fully recovering from his respiratory issues, Gasol has averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.6 RPG in his last five games. Gasol has shown what he can do when he is fully healthy and receives the ball near the paint where he can attack, without getting double-teamed.

As the Lakers seek to get at least some if not all of their injured guards back within a few weeks, Gasol was injured vs. Clippers on Friday. Gasol, who has been playing very well since recovering from respiratory issues, received an MRI yesterday, which showed a moderate toe sprain. Gasol is listed as a game-time decision for tonight’s game, but many may hope he rests his toe tonight since they are far outside of playoff race and suffering bad luck with injuries.

However, according to ESPNLA.com’s Beto Duran, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni expects him to play tonight.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Brown’s leadership. However, they still seek to make the playoffs this season, evidenced by their acquisition of All-Star SF Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls for disgruntled C Andrew Bynum‘s contract. Deng, who was supposed to be a major piece in the puzzle for a potential Bulls dynasty before PG Derrick Rose‘s unfortunate luck with injuries, has averaged 18.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG while making his mark as a very high quality on-ball defender.

A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.1 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead his young team quickly, expect to see the Cavaliers in the playoffs this season.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyrie IrvingKendall Marshall [Advantage: Cavaliers]
SG – CJ Miles / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]
SF – Luol DengWesley Johnson [Advantage: Cavaliers]
PF – Tristan ThompsonPau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Anderson VaerjaoRobert Sacre [Advantage: Cavaliers]

Notable Bench Players

Cavaliers: F Earl Clark, G Dion Waters, F Tyler Zeller, PG Jarrett Jack

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Cavaliers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Start Over: Hopefully having 3 days off helped the Lakers players clear their mind and start over. After losing 10 out of their last 11 games, they have to play tonight’s game as their 1st game of this season. Mentally restart their season at 0-0 and forget about what has transpired in the past month. They currently have played with no confidence, energy, heart, or passion since SG Kobe Bryant‘s knee injury, so they have to get back on track mentally to play like they did during the 1st month of this season prior to Bryant’s return.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers seek to effectively incorporate Deng into their team while they battle locker room issues. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to find healthy players to put on the floor, primarily point guards. Hopefully, the three days off will help the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and edge. Regardless of whether Gasol plays or not tonight, they should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully win tonight’s game, and carry some positive momentum into their Grammy road trip.

Prediction

Lakers: 93-90

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