The Los Angeles Lakers will finish their road trip with a visit to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are three things to watch for in LeBron James’ return home.
On Wednesday, Nov. 21, LeBron James will make his first return to Cleveland since signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. In what is for sure going to be an emotional game, filled to the brim with tribute videos, adulations from his former teammates, coaches, and team executives, the Lakers will look to continue their recent success going into this game.
The Cavaliers, to put it lightly, are not good this year. After an early-season foot injury to Kevin Love, the team lost their only semblance of star talent, and have fallen to a dismal 2-13, good for last place in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers, on the other hand, are sitting at 9-7, placing them 7th in a tightly contested Western Conference, where the difference between the 2nd and 8th seed is separated by two games. No matter how bad this Cavs team appears to be, the last thing the Lakers should do is to go into this game expecting an easy win.
The Return of the King
The biggest story of this game will undoubtedly be LeBron James and his return to The Land, a place where he won the championship in 2016 in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the NBA, and a place that he has called home for most of his life. The question at hand is whether or not the emotion of being back in Cleveland will affect how LeBron plays.
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On the other side, former Lakers Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson will also be having their own reunion of sorts and will be looking to make a statement against their former team. With Kevin Love and George Hill out for an extended period of time, Clarkson, as well as Cedi Osman and Rodney Hood have emerged as the team’s primary scoring options.
The Rebound Game
Even without Love, the Cavs still have a formidable rebounding front-court of Tristan Thompson, Larry Nance Jr. and Ante Zizic that the Lakers are going to have to contend with. If the Lakers want to win the rebounding game, JaVale McGee and Tyson Chandler are going to have to step up and keep these three off the glass.
Nance is the one I’m most worried about since he’s the most athletic of the three and has shown the ability to affect games on both offense and defense with his ability as a roll-man, screener, and passer. The Lakers switch-heavy defense may negate some of Nance’s strengths but the team will still have to contend with the possibility of a Nance posterizing dunk.
Although Cleveland is a pretty bad team as of now, the energy of LeBron’s return will probably have them fired up and deliver a win for the Cleveland crowd. This is a fairly well-balanced team with plenty of scoring options, coupled with the fact that Larry Drew will be able to scheme for LeBron, seeing as how he was an assistant during his second tenure with the Cavs.
The bottom line is that the Lakers need to keep the Cavaliers front-court off the glass, limit the scoring of Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman, and Rodney Hood, and keep LeBron focused on winning the game.
After a successful return to Miami, where LeBron put up a staggering 51 points, I’m optimistic that LeBron will be keen to deliver a similar performance for his hometown team. Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, Laker fans should be prepared for a show.
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