Friday, March 1, 2024

ON THE BALL: Lakers, Cavs renew rivalry


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Head-to-head record: Cavs swept series 3-0

Well if it isn’t another Lakers-Cavs matchup.

As if five knockout title games and five previous playoff series weren’t enough.

Apparently they aren’t, because we’re about to witness their sixth postseason showdown in the last 11 years in a continuation of the rivalry that has defined local basketball for more than a decade.

It’s not just another routine meeting either considering the matchup pits the reigning knockout kings against the defending league champs.

About the only thing missing from this series is the grand stage of another league finals to add to the other three (2007, 2008, 2010) they’ve already contested.

Why Station Hill will win: That’s all they’ve done against Lakers this season.

Of course those previous games don’t mean much now but you can’t escape the fact that the matchup really favours Station Hill because of their style of play.

Lakers tend to move the ball around a lot, at least more than anyone else in Barbados, and that plays right into the opportunistic Cavs’ hands, as Saeed Norville, Kevin Sealy, Darren Hunte, Corey Howard and Stephan Ottley want nothing more than to force turnovers and get out in transition.

In theory a big body like John Jones should cause problems for the smaller Cavs, but he typically has to take a bounce or two to make his move and that allows Station Hill’s “handsy” players time to swarm him down low.

And it’s not like Lakers are making anyone pay for collapsing the pain right now when you consider that Keefe Birkett, Mark Bridgeman and Jimal Singh have struggled mightily all season long to hit jumpers from the perimeter.

These Cavs also love to crash the offensive glass and that typically spells trouble for a Husbands side which isn’t traditionally good at clearing the defensive boards.

Now while their perimeter players not named Jason Smith aren’t particularly good shooters, Station Hill continually finds ways to create driving lanes against a Lakers defence that needlessly over-rotates to players who aren’t deep threats.

The addition of an improved Joel Hunte gives their offence a bit of an added dimension as a player who can easily create for himself, particularly when the shot clock is winding down.

Why Lakers will win: The cavalry is back.

Who knows when Keefe Birkett will bounce back, but his team may not need him to, as overseas-based young players Jehu Lafeuille and Chiamaka Browne have returned to bolster a roster that already features John Jones and Mark Bridgeman.

Just remember neither Jones nor Bridgeman played a single minute in the postseason for last year’s title-winning team.

When you add Ricardo Jemmott to the mix then that gives Lakers five extremely long and athletic players, who are all great finishers around the rim and reduce their team’s heavy reliance on perimeter scoring.

Lafeuille, Jemmott and Jones are also legit shot-blockers, and those are key ingredients for any team hoping to win a series against this Station Hill side that lives to score in the paint.

Both Jemmott and Lafeuille actually allow Lakers to match up extremely well with the Cavs’ smaller line-ups without losing size in the frontcourt as they have the foot speed and agility to stay in front of most guards.

We may even see a return to form from Birkett, who can concentrate primarily on scoring now that Browne and Bridgeman are back to shoulder most of the ball-handling duties.

Prediction: Lakers in three.

Everything seemingly points towards a Station Hill series victory but it’s particularly hard to bet against a defending champion that got even better with the addition of two national players in Jones and Bridgeman.

These Lakers just look really long and talented and I think Lafeuille’s understated impact on both sides of the floor tips the scale in their favour. (JM)


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