Gameday Dish: LeBron and Kobe Back in the Ring

Lakers-Cavs round two is tonight in Cleveland. LeBron and the Cavs took round one in convincing fashion on Christmas day. In order to avenge that loss the Lakers must show up ready to play, both mentally and physically.  In the first matchup they didn’t have the focus necessary to win and I’m sure Phil Jackson is using that for motivation. Perhaps it was because of the holiday distractions, a possible home court disadvantage.

But looking back at the stats it’s clear the Cavs were the better team that night. They shot over 53% from the floor and 39% from the 3-point line. And they played aggressive team defense holding the Lakers to 36% from the floor and 28% from the 3-point line. They were also the more physical team, outscoring the Lakers 46 to 38 in the paint.

Of course when these two teams meet there’s always the focus on the LeBron-Kobe matchup. LeBron is on a tear right now playing incredible ball while Kobe is guttng through injuries. It’s important for Kobe’s teammates to pick him up and lighten his load so he’ll be in shape to lead them in the post-season. In the last game Cleveland’s bench outscored LA’s 31 to 17 – they’ll need a better effort if the Lakers are going to leave Cleveland with a win. And it would be nice to see Bynum step up big down-low.

The Cavs are the number one 3-point shooting team in the NBA and if the role players are getting open looks they are a very difficult team to beat. However, the Cavs’ shooting arsenal will be short some ammunition tonight – point guard Mo Williams has been sidelined with a sprained left shoulder. Mo is Cleveland’s number two scorer behind LeBron and led the Cavaliers in scoring in the Christmas matchup with 28 points, going three-for-three from three-point range. With Mo being injured it might slow down Cleveland’s 3-point attack and give the Lakers the freedom to double team LeBron.

The NBA season is long and this is just one game – but some games do have larger implications. This is a potential Finals preview and both teams will come out looking to prove something to themselves and the other team. We saw the last one get chippy at the end; expect it to be near playoff intensity tonight. We’ve got the call on TNT at 8:00 p.m. EST.