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Irving should be ready for faceoff with LeBron, Lakers

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were mates for three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with each campaign ending in the NBA Finals. In the 11 times they have opposed each other, whatever team James was leading holds the edge over Irving’s team.

The 12th meeting between the former teammates occurs Thursday night when James and the Los Angeles Lakers try to improve on the Western Conference’s best record when they visit Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, who are having some massive struggles of late.

James returned to Cleveland in 2014 following four seasons with the Miami Heat.

During his time in Miami, the Cavaliers drafted Irving with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, and when James returned to Cleveland, the duo reached the NBA Finals each time as teammates, highlighted by the 2016 championship, when James had a clutch block on Andre Iguodala and Irving hit the game-winning shot in Game 7 in Golden State.

A year later, their partnership was over when Irving wanted a trade and was dealt to the Boston Celtics. James spent one more campaign in Cleveland and reached the NBA Finals again in 2018 before heading to the Lakers in free agency. Irving spent two seasons in Boston before signing with Brooklyn along with Kevin Durant in July.

James is 9-2 all-time versus Irving and is averaging 25.5 points in those games. Irving’s two victories occurred as a Celtic on Jan. 3, 2018, and March 9, 2019.

Heading into this meeting, the Lakers have won 35 of their first 44 matches. They rebounded nicely from allowing 139 points on Monday in a blowout loss at Boston by recording a 100-92 road triumph over the New York Knicks on Wednesday.

Irving is averaging 26.5 points, but injuries have limited him to 15 games. He missed 26 games due to right shoulder impingement, and the Nets went 13-13.

The Canadian star will meet another opponent he has never faced before in the third round — world No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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