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TNT Game Previews: LeBron faces his former team and Doncic and Jokic square off

Another up-close look at Year 2 of Evan Mobley

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons are playing a struggling Miami Heat team today, but there are two more games on the NBA schedule and they are both slated for TNT. First, the Cleveland Cavaliers, which currently hold the third-best record in the East, face a Los Angeles Lakers team with a little bit of a pulse. LeBron James, Anthony Davis and company have won eight of their past 10 contests. In that span, the Lakers sport the league’s third-best net rating behind just the Pelicans and Celtics (and just two spots above the fifth-ranked Cavs). The Lakers are doing it on both ends, with both a top-10 offense and defense. The Lion’s share of that credit goes to Anthony Davis, who leads the NBA in scoring in his past 10 games at 35.3 points per night. He’s also collecting 15.6 rebounds, blocking 2.9 shots and getting to the free-throw line more than 10 times per game (and hitting 88% at the stripe). Yes, James is the story that connects both Cleveland and LA, but I’m most interested in seeing James go up against the Cavs’ young defensive big man Evan Mobley.

In the night cap, the struggling Dallas Mavericks are facing a Denver Nuggets team that is still trying to find its groove. The Nuggets have lost two in a row and still trying to integrate Jamal Murray, maximize Bruce Brown and not get obliterated by a moribund bench unit led by Bones Hyland, Christian Braun and DeAndre Jordan. The only teams in the NBA with worse bench production than Denver is San Antonio (one of the worst teams in the league) and Golden State (who are much less eager lately to let its young players kill its bench units).

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

Game Vitals

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rocket Mortgage Field House, Cleveland, Ohio
Watch: TNT
Odds: Lakers +5.5

Projected Lineups

Los Angeles Lakers (10-12)

Dennis Schroder, Patrick Beverly, Lonnie Walker, LeBron James, Anthony Davis

Cleveland Cavaliers (15-9)

Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Lamar Stevens, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen

Dallas Mavericks vs. Denver Nuggets

Game Vitals

When: 10 p.m. ET
Where: Ball Arena, Denver, Colorado
Watch: TNT
Odds: Mavericks +5

Projected Lineups

Dallas Mavericks (12-11)

Luka Doncic, Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway, Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell

Denver Nuggets (14-9)

Jamal Murray, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Bruce Brown, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic

DraftKings Odds

Jarrett Allen is listed as questionable and has missed the past five games for the Cavs. That could hypothetically pose problems for the Cavs as they look to slow down a white-hot Anthony Davis coming off of games of 55 and 44 points. However, even with Allen out of the lineup, the Cavs have the NBA’s stoutest defense thanks to Evan Mobley ... and a bit of a soft spot in their schedule.

If you’re bold enough to say that Mobley can match up well against Davis then it’s tough to see the Lakers being able to keep pace offensively with the Cavs. Also, it feels like a good rule of thumb is to always bet against Dennis Schroder. So I’ll give the Lakers the 5.5 points (odds via DraftKings) and still feel like I can come out on top.

In the evening game, it’s nearly impossible to bet against either Nikola Jokic or Luka Doncic. But considering Luka played the TNT game just one week ago and scored 41 points against the Warriors, I guess I’ll take Luka and the Mavs at +5. Yes, Doncic is on the second night of a back-to-back, but the Mavericks limited his minutes to under 30 so he should still be pretty fresh.

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