Fri, 24 Jan 2020

Suddenly hot Cavaliers aim to stun Lakers

Field Level Media
13 Jan 2020, 10:19 GMT+10

The Cleveland Cavaliers will take their new-found formula for success up against the Western Conference leader in success then they visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night.

After winning just 10 of their first 37 games, the Cavaliers went on the road and prevailed over the Detroit Pistons inovertime and the Denver Nuggets at altitude for one of the NBA season's most surprising winning streaks.

Cavaliers coach John Beilein did it by shortening his bench, relying almost exclusively on starters Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

All five starters went 38 or more minutes at Detroit, then 34 or more two nights later in Denver, and all five scored in double figures both times.

Thompson has led the way with two double-doubles, including a career-best 35 points to go with 14 rebounds against the Pistons.

The Cavaliers got a big boost from their young guards, with Sexton -- a 2018 lottery pick -- pouring in 19 and 25 points in the two wins, while 2019 lottery selection Garland went for 20 and 18.

"With them growing from every game, that's what you want at the end of the day, especially from a rookie and a second-year player," Thompson told reporters after the Denver win. "You want them to get better as the season progresses, and that's what they're showing.

"They're playing with a lot of confidence right now. That's the key. Going out there, feeling good and knowing they're good enough to play in this league and they're good enough to start in our league."

The formerly disgruntled Love has played a role as well, averaging a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds in the two wins.

The former UCLA standout will take that momentum into his annual Los Angeles homecoming. In fact, it'll be a two-night celebration, with the Cavaliers staying in town to face the Clippers on Tuesday.

Love has walked off the court a winner in three of his last four Staples Center outings against the Lakers. All told, he's faced the L.A. teams in California 21 times and recorded 15 double-doubles.

It appears he'll be matched up Monday with LeBron James, after the Lakers' star was held out of Saturday's 125-110 win at Oklahoma City because of a cold.

James had exploded for 35 points and a season-best 16 rebounds the night before in a 129-114 win at Dallas.

The two-game road sweep increased the Lakers' winning streak to eight games. Their 32 wins pace the Western Conference.

Despite being a bit under the weather, James attended Saturday's game and was Kyle Kuzma's biggest cheerleader during a season-best 36-point performance.

"That's what I'm talking about, Kuz," James could be heard shouting at his teammate during a timeout. "Yes, sir, that's what I'm talking about."

Rajon Rondo also came up big at Oklahoma City as the Lakers were missing Anthony Davis and Danny Green as well as James. But Rondo suffered a finger injury on his right hand during a contest in which he established season highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds to go with eight assists and he is questionable for the Cleveland game.

Davis, who has missed the last two games with a bruised tailbone, is not expected to face the Cavaliers, who beat the Lakers 101-95 in Los Angeles exactly one year ago Monday.

Head coach Frank Vogel was impressed with the play from other reserves in Quinn Cook, Troy Daniels and Jared Dudley, who made up for a short-handed rotation against the Mavericks.

"Extremely proud and really, extremely happy for guys in particular like Quinn and Troy and Dudz that don't play every night," Vogel added. "They have to stay ready, which is a difficult assignment when you're not practicing and the games are going by where you're not playing."

--Field Level Media

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