Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ Sunday night matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
1) The King will miss his former club’s visit
A strained left groin has kept LeBron James out of action for nine games — the longest stretch of his career. And he will miss at least two more, including this one against his old team.
The Lakers have been Jekyll and Hyde without their superstar, locking down the defensive side (ranking third in the NBA) but playing rudderless on offense (ranking last).
That combination has largely worked against the Lakers, who are 3-6 without LeBron.
Perhaps a group outing to visit the conference championship-bound L.A. Rams will inspire some C.J. Anderson-esque offensive performances.
2) Keep an eye on Beas
One person who has no trouble on the offensive side is Michael Beasley, who has now scored double figures in four straight for the Lakers.
Beasley only reached double digits once in L.A.’s first 39 games, as he was largely limited to spot minutes and missed an entire month due to the passing of his mother.
But he has feasted during this latest opportunity, averaging 15.0 points on 59.5 percent shooting over his last four.
The 30-year-old’s off-the-dribble game has been cash for the Lakers this season, as he’s hit 66.7 percent of his shots in the paint, including a gaudy 78.9 percent in the restricted area.
3) Cavs need a big game
The Lakers simply cannot overlook this Cleveland team that enters the game with the league’s worst record (8-35).
Yes, the Cavaliers have lost a dozen games in a row. Yes, they have the league’s worst defensive rating. Yes, they are last in point differential (-11.0).
But the Lakers nearly lost to this same team in Cleveland, and needed a huge game from LeBron to avoid the upset.
With how tight the Western Conference playoff picture is, the Lakers can’t afford to drop games against teams at the bottom of the standings, so they will need to bring their best effort to avoid squandering such an opportunity.
Lakers: LeBron James (strained left groin) and Rajon Rondo (right ring finger surgery) are out. Isaac Bonga, Alex Caruso and Johnathan Williams are on G League assignment.
Cavaliers: Larry Nance Jr. (right knee sprain), David Nwaba (left ankle sprain), Kevin Love (left foot surgery), John Henson (left wrist surgery) and J.R. Smith (personal) are out.
Tip-Off: 6:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: White Association
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California
Source: Los Angeles Lakers