Things haven’t gone as planned for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The return of LeBron James was supposed to turn the Cavs back into title contenders, and instead King James has missed almost 10 games due to injury and Cleveland has floundered around as a .500 team. The Los Angeles Lakers have had it much worse, as Kobe Bryant’s triumphant return from a lost 2013-14 season was welcomed by injuries to Steve Nash and Julius Randle and an otherwise lackluster roster. Both sides will naturally search for answers when the two sides collide onThursday, January 15th, but will ultimately come together for a battle worth watching.
The Kobe versus LeBron matchup is what gets everyone’s blood going, and has LA Lakers tickets on Barry’s Tickets hovering right around $276.27 on average ($58 to get in). Cavaliers tickets see a mild $14 spike for this one, too, as the Staples Center is one of the better venues to visit in the league and this game is clearly riddled with star power. In addition to Kobe and James, former UCLA product Kevin Love also “returns home” to face the very team some speculate he could join as a free agent as early as next year.
James returned this summer and got the Cleveland brass to trade away potential superstar Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love. So far, it hasn’t really seemed worth it, as Cleveland has struggled mightily on defense and has mostly played .500 level basketball. Love has been more of a problem than a help on the defensive side, while he’s also struggled to find his role on offense behind James and Kyrie Irving. Of course, James struggled with the Miami Heat the first year he teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, so it’s still entirely possible the Cavs rebound and become a legit threat for the NBA title.
We know the Lakers won’t be a threat in the ultra-competitive West, but Cleveland still has to get through them on Thursday. Judging by last year, fans could be in for an exciting, fast-paced contest between these two struggling teams. The Cavs and Lakers split their 2013-14 season series, with both games having both teams over 100 points. Thanks to quality offense and almost no defense this year, a similar result is to be expected when they hit the hardwood onThursday night.
Cleveland’s scoring and execution has predictably suffered without James, but the Lakers have kept trucking on (averaging over 101 points per game) even when The Black Mamba has taken games off to rest. With him back in the lineup, their offense will naturally be back more to itself, especially since head coach Byron Scott has him on a minutes restriction (between 28-32), something he failed to do earlier in the year. That led to Bryant being one of the league’s top scorers, but it also hurt his (and the team’s) efficiency and drove the Lake Show’s star into the ground.
The Lakers don’t necessarily need Bryant to keep the scoring coming like they did in two games against the Cavs last year, but it’ll certainly help if they can get his 23 points per game. TheLakers have owned the Cavs historically, as they’ll enter Thursday’s matchup with a 61-43 edge on them over 104 NBA battles over the years. In the past four years, they’ve faced each other two timrd each year in three seasons – splitting the series each time. Naturally, that makesThursday’s contest a bit of a toss-up, but with history and this year’s numbers suggesting a lot of points, fans will at least be highly entertained when they file into the Staples Center.