For all of the Los Angeles Lakers struggles this year, they may be in the midst of their worst stretch of the 2012-2013 season.
L.A. has lost four of their last five games. Two of those defeats came against the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets, both of which have losing records. The Lakers now sit at 9-12, giving them the 12th-best record in the Western Conference.
On Tuesday night, Los Angeles will look to get back on track against their worst opponent, thus far. They’ll visit the Cleveland Cavaliers at 7 p.m. ET. You can watch a live stream online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband.
The Cavaliers are just 4-17 through the first quarter of the season. After picking very high in the past couple of drafts, they have a lot of young talent, but haven’t been able to translate that into wins.
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Dion Waiters was the team’s top selection in April. The No.4 overall pick has put up 15.2 poinst per game in his rookie year, good for second on the team. Waiters, however, will miss his fifth straight game with a sprained ankle. Cleveland is winless in his absence, including two losses to the hapless Detroit Pistons.
Los Angeles has a few injuries of its own. Steve Nash is expected to miss the Lakers entire road trip, and Pau Gasol will sit against the Cavaliers. Antawn Jamison has failed to adequately fill Gasol’s role. He was relegated to just 16 minutes in L.A.’s last game against the Utah Jazz. Jordan Hill got the majority of the minutes at power forward.
Even with Gasol and Nash on the bench, the Lakers biggest issue might be their defense. Since Mike D’Antoni has taken over as the head coach, Los Angeles has allowed at least 100 points in seven of 11 games. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant got into a verbal altercation last week because of the team’s poor defense, and opposing offenses are having little trouble putting up points.
"I just don't think we've had a gut-check moment yet," said D’Antoni. "At some point we're going to draw a line in the sand and that's it, you have to fight. It seems like things happen on the court that get us down. Are there possessions we just throw away? Yeah. We have too many guys who will take a possession off."
Neither Bryant nor Howard has performed on defense like they have in the past. The two have made a combined 13 appearances on the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
Facing the Cavs may be exactly what the Lakers need. Cleveland is averaging just 83.5 points per game without Waiters.
Betting Line: Los Angeles-6, 206.5
Prediction: Despite the Lakers struggles, they should be able to handle the Cavs. As long as Kyrie Irving doesn’t put up a career performance, it will be tough for Cleveland to score enough to get the win.
Predicted Score: Los Angeles 102, Cleveland 85