A pair of teams with depleted rosters will clash Friday when the Los Angeles Lakers play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Lakers, who are still trying to find their way without superstars Anthony Davis (calf) and LeBron James (ankle), will have a quick turnaround, entering off a 109-101 home defeat Thursday to the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Lakers are on a four-game losing streak that started Saturday when James was injured in a home loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
Kyle Kuzma had 25 points for the Lakers on Thursday while Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell added 20 each. Trailing by as many as 18 in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles pulled within a single possession in the final minute, but the comeback fell short.
While the Lakers were the subject of some rumors at Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, the team never made a move.
“I’ve been in this league long enough and been in enough trade rumors to realize that the show must go on,” Kuzma said. “It’s a little weird, but this is a business, and you gotta understand that, and no matter what, you gotta put your work cap on and control what you can control.”
The Lakers are going to have to figure out a way to win games over the coming weeks after coach Frank Vogel said Thursday that Davis’ return is “still a ways away.”
Currently fourth in the Western Conference, the defending champion Lakers could use victories anywhere on the schedule they can get them. They are 1 1/2 games ahead of both the Denver Nuggets and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Only the top six teams in each conference advance straight to the playoffs this season. Teams in positions seven through 10 will need to participate in a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots.
The Cavaliers are in a different short-handed situation. JaVale McGee was traded to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday while Andre Drummond reportedly is waiting on a contract buyout that will make him a free agent.
Drummond, who has not played since Feb. 12, has been linked to both the Lakers and the New York Knicks.
Despite all of their recent upheaval, the Cavaliers have managed to win three of their past five games. They are coming off a 103-94 road victory over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, when Darius Garland had 22 points.
“This is one of those games that we’ll look back, hopefully, we’ll look back on at the end of the year and go, ‘That one right there, that was a big one for us,'” the Cavaliers’ Larry Nance Jr. said. “We should feel good about (it).”
Leading scorer Collin Sexton (24 points per game) did not play Wednesday after experiencing right hamstring soreness in the morning shootaround, but the injury is not believed to be serious.
Asked if Sexton would play Friday, coach J.B. Bickerstaff said, “We’ll see.”
Jarrett Allen, acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in January, has averaged 14.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in 17 games since Drummond last saw action, slightly above his season numbers of 13.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.
–Field Level Media