Kyrie Irving celebrates after hitting a three-point shot that sealed the… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
After losing four of their last five games, the Lakers (9-12) will visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night just in time for point guard Kyrie Irving to make a return from a finger injury.
The Cavaliers started relatively strong, at least for a young, rebuilding team, but losing Irving for 11 games has led to a 4-17 record. Cleveland is coming in with five straight losses, hungry to hang a loss on the Lakers.
Rookie guard Dion Waiters is questionable with a sprained ankle. It's not clear when Pau Gasol will make a return for the Lakers, but Steve Nash and Steve Blake are definitely out for now.
Both teams are desperate for a win, which should lead to a passionate basketball game.
Tuesday would be a tremendous opportunity for the Lakers to take a big step forward, but it certainly won't be easy to accomplish in Cleveland, despite their record.
Anderson Varejao has been a force for the Cavaliers, averaging 14.5 points and 15.2 boards a game. Varejao provides a young squad with veteran leadership and a defensive presence.
Of course, Varejao will have to match up against Dwight Howard, who is averaging 18.4 points and 11.7 rebounds a game.
Alonzo Gee is Cleveland's best perimeter defender. He'll be asked to slow down Kobe Bryant.
If Irving returns strong, the Lakers might need the (relative) quickness and length of Darius Morris to slow one of the best young point guards in the league.
The Lakers need the win, badly. They'll have to fight to get it.
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Email Eric Pincus at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.