Lakers – Cavs: The Matchup

Ron Artest - LeBron JamesIn a few hours, the Lakers and Cavs meet for the final time in 2009-10 … at least in the regular season.

Here’s more than you need to know about the matchup:

LAST TIME: The Cavs were simply the more aggressive team when they beat L.A. 102-87 at STAPLES Center on Christmas day. Cleveland shot 53.3 percent to L.A.’s 36.5%, had 24 assists on their 38 made field goals and got a terrific effort from point guard Mo Williams, who made all three of his three-pointers and 9-of-10 free throws for 28 points.
***UPDATE: Williams will miss Thursday night’s game with a left shoulder strain.

CAVS AT HOME: Last season, Cleveland was undefeated at home (23-0) … until the Andrew Bynum-less Lakers came to town in early February and won 101-91. Their only other loss came in the regular season’s final game, when the Cavs rested most of their starters including LeBron James. This season, the Cavs lost two games at home early and have lost three total, yet are still 15-3 and have won 13-of-14 in Ohio. That 15-3 mark is the NBA’s third best at home, after the Lakers (23-3) and Nuggets (18-3).

LOTS OF WINS: The Cavs and Lakers have both won a league-high 32 games, though Cleveland has picked up two more losses. The Cavaliers are 20-6 mark over the last 26 games, the best in the NBA. L.A. is 9-6 on the road, the six losses tied with Boston for the league’s fewest on the road, but the purple and gold have also played the fewest road games.

POINT DIFFERENTIAL: Always a good way to measure the league’s best teams is point differential, which the Lakers happen to lead at +7.0, the Cavs close behind at +6.5 (Boston had led the league before Kevin Garnett’s injury). L.A. and Cleveland are also the league’s best teams when hitting 100 points, the Lakers ranking first (26-1, .963) and the Cavaliers second (25-1, .962). One reason: the Lakers continue to lead the NBA in defensive field goal percentage (.435), while Cleveland ranks third (.438).

WATCH THE LINE: The Cavs are the league’s best three-point shooting team right now, making 40.9 percent of their shots, while the Lakers lead the league in three-point percentage against. Something has to give.

TEAM CONNECTIONS: Cavs forward J.J. Hickson and Josh Powell both attended North Carolina State University, though Powell was gone before Hickson arrived; Ron Artest played under then assistant coach Mike Brown in Indiana from 2002-2005; 2010 Slam Dunk participant Shannon Brown was the Cavaliers 2006 first round draft pick (25th overall); Lakers assistant Jim Cleamons played five seasons (1972-1977) with the Cavaliers, played collegiate basketball at Ohio State, graduating in 1971 and is a member of the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2008.

KOBE, HISTORY: Kobe Bryant is only 19 points away from 25,000 in his career, a mark he could well reach against the Cavs. Bryant had a game-high 35 points in the X-Mas day matchup.