The Kobe Bryant return party isn’t scheduled for Friday night, so the game becomes far less interesting to the national audience. Still, for the Sacramento Kings, riding a six game losing streak, this is a perfect game to reverse the trend. After their 100-86 shellacking in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, the Kings shouldn’t need any motivation against a team they should be able to keep pace with talent-wise.
Los Angeles Lakers:
|C: DeMarcus Cousins, 6’11, Kentucky |
21.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 48.5% FG
|C: Pau Gasol, 7’0, Spain |
14.3 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 41.9% FG
|PF: Jason Thompson, 6’11, Rider |
6.8 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 46.2% FG
|PF: Jordan Hill, 6’10, Arizona |
8.9 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 54% FG
|SF: Derrick Williams, 6’8, Arizona |
9.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 46.7% FG
|SF: Wesley Johnson, 6’7, Syracuse |
8.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 43.6% FG
|SG: Ben McLemore, 6’5, Kansas |
9.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 36.8% FG
|SG: Jodie Meeks, 6’4, Kentucky |
13.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 49.1% FG
|PG: Greivis Vasquez, 6’6, Maryland |
10.4 PPG, 5.3 APG, 44.3% FG
|PG: Steve Blake, 6’3, Maryland |
10 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.2 RPG, 40.6% FG
Key Bench Players:
|G: Isaiah Thomas, 5’11, Washington |
27.6 MPG, 17.6 PPG, 4.5 APG, 45% FG
|G: Jordan Farmar, 6’2, UCLA |
18.9 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 4.2 APG, 43.8% FG
|F: Travis Outlaw, 6’8, Starkville HS |
14.9 MPG, 6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 45.3% FG
|F: Nick Young, 6’7, USC |
25 MPG, 14.2 PPG, 44.1% FG
|F: Patrick Patterson, 6’9, Kentucky |
24.7 MPG, 7.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 43% FG
|C: Chris Kaman, 7’0, Central Michigan |
17.3 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 49% FG
Last Three Contests:
November 24, 2013: Kings @ Lakeers – Lakers 100, Kings 86
March 30, 2013: Lakers @ Kings – Lakers 103, Kings 98
March 17, 2013: Kings @ Lakers – Lakers 113, Kings 102
Key Matchup: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Pau Gasol/Jordan Hill
When these two teams played in LA, Gasol and Hill (who also is a center, but ‘plays’ power forward) combined for 30 points and 23 rebounds. Most importantly, they stuck with DeMarcus Cousins and got him heated, which ended with a technical foul and didn’t help the Kings hopes of a comeback.
Cousins should be able to score against either defender. Gasol is having a solid year defensively, giving up an absurd .69 points per defensive possession (according to Synergy Sports), 18th highest in the league. Still, he isn’t as bulky as Cousins, and DeMarcus fared well against him in the early going of their first matchup.
Hill is decently strong he isn’t to the level that Cousins is, and he’s already mediocre to begin with (103 points per defensive position, 299th in the league). As long as Cousins plays his game and doesn’t let either get into his head, there’s no reason why he can’t have a big night.
Three Things to Watch:
1. Compete with the depth: What once looked like a rag-tag roster bound for the lottery has turned into a solidly deep team—but probably still bound for the lottery. Reguardless, as the Lakers showed last time (when Xavier Henry had 22 points), they’ve got a lot of solid players the Kings can’t sleep on. Every night it seems a different player in leading them in scoring. It helps that two veterans (Gasol and Blake) are playing excellent basketball, and it allows the rest of the roster to flux a bit and still be competitive. How the dynamics will change when Kobe returns, one can only guess.
Given the roster as it is now, though, is still a decent challenge. The Kings don’t have the depth—as odd as that is to say, looking back on preseason expectations—as the Lakers do.
2. Point Guard consistency: Isaiah Thomas nearly carried the Kings to victory by himself on Tuesday, but his 19 point fourth quarter brilliance overshadowed his recent struggles. Meanwhile, Greivis Vasquez still can’t play consistent defense on pretty much anyone he’s asked to guard.
The Kings need both players to show consistency to break the losing streak. Thomas is beloved for his heroics, but he needs to find a way to show up earlier in games than the second half/fourth quarter. Vasquez needs to figure out how to stick to his assignments defensively better, because aside from Cousins and backup Chuck Hayes, there aren’t a ton of Kings in the paint who can rotate to his missed assignments with any sort of consistent success.
3. Care as much as the Fans: We get it, NBA community. The Kings have sucked for years and the once vaunted “rivalry” between these teams is dead. Just don’t try and convince Kings fans that this is just another game, even if there’s only a 1% chance Kobe Bryant plays.
It’s the Lakers in Sacramento. It may be named Sleep Train Arena (an excellent sponsor, no doubt!) nowadays, but when the Lakers come to town, it’s reverts back to Arco Arena more than with any other team. This is the one team fans hate to lose most too in Sacramento (although the Warriors and the Clippers have gained significant ground there). If the team plays with the tenacity of the fans, this will be a blowout.
Prediction: Cousins demolishes down low, Ben McLemore breaks out for a 20 point game, and the Kobeless Lakers stand no chance — Kings 105, Lakers 92