The Lakers are back home on Friday, where they will return after a five-game road trip to host their other Pacific Division residents, the Sacramento Kings. LA must be prepared for a Sacramento team that comes after an exciting win against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, and a list that is eager to restart their season after recently firing former Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
The Kings may not have a single All-Star on their roster, but they can still score with the best teams in the NBA. They have the 10th best offensive rating in the league (scoring 109.3 per 100 possessions) led by De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, (future Laker) Buddy Hield and the young guards Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell. Sacramento have not shot the ball particularly well from the center, but they find many ways to get to the free throw line and score from different angles around the field.
And with Alvin Gentry now leading the Kings, the team has played at a faster pace in their last two games, which is actually perfect for Fox’s style of play. The current interim coach has also already tested the Kings’ first three-guard lineup and has already made more adjustments to the game (like actually playing Damian Jones and Marvin Bagley III more) than Walton has during his tenure with the team, according to our friends over at Sactown Royalty.
It would be wise for the Lakers to notice Gentry’s new tweaks to this team ahead of Friday’s game.
But as good as they are on the offensive, the Kings’ are in even more elite company … in how impressively bad they are in defense. They are ranked in the bottom four of the league in defensive rating (allowing 110.9 per 100 possessions, which essentially makes every opponent the Phoenix Suns) and a big reason is due to their lack of size and performance at the end of the floor.
So it’s safe to say that this match is likely to boil down to the fact that between the two mediocre defenses shows up and performs better, as the Lakers themselves have not exactly excelled on that side of the floor this season either.
For purple and gold to contain Sacramento’s strong and versatile offense, they need to make sure their penetration, point of attack and assist defense are sharp enough, because as mentioned above, Kings score aggressively in a variety of ways. The Lakers will also need to polish their pick-and-roll defense (something they have not done well enough this season) because the Kings are ranked second in the league in pick-and-roll frequency (23.7%) and successfully score from this game often (they are ranked 40.5% in pick-and-roll scoring frequency) according to the league’s official statistics page.
Moreover, this game will also be the perfect time for Anthony Davis – if he is recovering from his flu-like symptoms – to maximize his height and score inside instead of settling for jumpers as Kings’ starter has no match for him. LA should put a ton of pressure on the rim while hoping Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony shoot the lights out of the Staples Center to keep up with the Kings’ shooter.
And oh, the Lakers might also want to make sure they avoid a potential Hield revenge game. LA saw the game type “you should have traded for me instead” from Kyle Lowry last season and DeMar Derozan this season, so they have to do everything they can to make sure Hield (who is currently number two in the league in 3 points made per game behind Steph Curry) fighting against them.
Otherwise, if the Kings end up winning the game because of Hield, the Lakers will not hear the end of why they should have traded for the sniper last season. This alone should motivate purple and gold to play hard and smart, get focused and determined on Friday. Hopefully, the Lakers walk out of this game with a two-game winning streak, and with a sense of confirmation that they actually made the right move to trade for Russell Westbrook over Hield out of season.
Notes and updates
- Trevor Ariza (right ankle recovery), Kendrick Nunn (right knee bruise) are still out tomorrow. Lakers’ two-way contract player Chaundee Brown Jr. and Jay Huff will be on G League service.
- The good news for the Lakers is that rookie Austin Reaves (strain in the left hind thigh) is now listed as questionable after not playing for several weeks.
- LeBron James (strain of the abdominis) is also listed as questionable.
- In addition, Anthony Davis is no longer on the injury report.
- Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes hurt right foot vs. The Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday and are listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game. Richaun Holmes (contusion in right eye) is also questionable.
The Lakers and Kings give the tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PST on Friday. The game will be broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet.
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