Los Angeles Lakers Stat Monkey Brief: Lakers/Cavs (12/11/12)

A must win in mid-December? For the Lakers, it may just be. And Antawn Jamison's the key.

At what point do you press the panic button if you're a Lakers fan? numberFire's current rankings still put the Lakers as the seventh-best team in the NBA by style of play and historical production of players on the team. Because of that high nERD score, the Lakers still hold an 88.7% chance of making the playoffs. That panic button's safe for now.

But a loss to the Cavs might be the Cold War-starter. Cleveland comes into this game as the No. 30 - that's dead last - team on the numberFire power rankings. For a Lakers team that could fall to 9-13 with a loss, this is as close to a must-win as it comes in mid-December. And the stats say there are a few holes they could exploit to take it home.

A Life Without Gasol

With Pau Gasol likely out for Tuesday's game, the Lakers will need to come up with a way to stop Anderson Varejao the Cavs offense down low minus their best big man. And the key to doing so may just be a former Cavalier: Antawn Jamison.

Of the Lakers' five most productive floor lineups this season, four of them involve Pau Gasol in some form. But the top four lineups that don't involve Gasol all have one thing in common: Jamison must be on the floor. The Lakers' third-most productive lineup this season features Blake-Bryant-World Peace-Jamison-Howard as the five on the floor.

This lineup sees a slightly lower rebounding rate than their starting lineup (51.0% vs. 51.5%), but they are slightly better at getting to the line (+7 FT differential despite playing 30 less minutes as a unit). This unit also has a 111 ORtg, the best of any Lakers lineup, but a staggeringly high 107 DRtg.

This unit will not likely be the Lakers' starting five - the unit with Morris substituting for Blake is only the Lakers' 11th best unit this year - but it's the one that should play most often if the Lakers want a chance.

There's no "D" in Cavaliers

Need a reason the Cavaliers are losing? Fine, there's Dan Gilbert. And the Decision. And a backcourt where only one player is old enough to drink... and Dion Waiters turned 21 yesterday. But there's an even bigger one out there: where's the shot defense?

The Cavaliers are dead last in the NBA in defensive effective field goal percentage (eFG%), which adjusts the normal FG% to account for three-pointers being worth more than twos. With opponents shooting .527 eFG% against them this season, the Cavs are allowing 108.6 points per 100 possessions. That's not good - by comparison, the Lakers have only given up a .483 eFG% to opposing teams this year, good for 10th in the league.

It will be up to the two key Lakers you'd expect to take advantage: Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. And luckily for L.A., both players are likely to take advantage. Kobe's current .534 eFG% is a career-high if he's able to maintain it, and Howard's .588 eFG% is only a slight increase over last season but is still good enough to rank sixth in the NBA.

Quick Hits

Pace: Watch who wins to control the pace of the game, because it could determine the outcome. The Lakers are the fourth-quickest team in the league with 93.9 possessions per 48 minutes, while the Cavs are in 18th at 91.7 possessions per 48 minutes.

Free Throws: Getting to the line should be a challenge for Cleveland. Their FT/FGA ratio is 24th in the league at .186, while the Lakers are the fourth-best at holding opponents from the line at a .188 FT/FGA ratio.