STARTING LINEUPS & INJURIES
The Kings will keep their recent starting five: Tyreke Evans, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry and DeMarcus Cousins. Samuel Dalembert is the first big off the bench; Francisco Garcia and Luther Head the first wings. Jason Thompson and Darnell Jackson will also play decent minutes.
The Lakers, who smoked visiting Memphis last night to go to 4-0, start Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. Andrew Bynum is still out. Theo Ratliff and Derrick Caracter come off the bench up front. Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes fill in on the wings and in the backcourt.
As much as it pains me to admit, the Lakers are really freaking good. Dexter Fishmore of SBN Lakers blog Silver Screen and Roll writes about how L.A. cooked the Grizz last night: with first-half offense.
Memphis just had no shot at stopping the Laker offense. Kobe, Pau and Lamar have the attack running oh-so-smoothly right now. The floor spacing is beautiful, players are making "purposeful cuts" (as Phil Jackson would put it), and the passing is sharp and creative. The Lakers are killing teams on the offensive glass and, most shocking of all after last season, the three-point bombs are raining down. For the game, the purple and gold scored 1.29 points per possession after a ridiculous 1.62 PPP blitzkrieg in the first half.
Does that sound like a problem for a Kings team that allowed 62 first-half points to the Raptors, 67 first-half points to the Cavaliers, 61 first-half points to the Nets and 58 first-half points to the Wolves? Yes. Yes it does.
The Kings simply can't afford to allow the Lakers to jump out to an early lead; shutting down Anthony Parker and Luke Ridnour in the second half is much different than doing it to Kobe and Pau. Sacramento has had four great comebacks, three successful. But the Lakers, compared to those four opponents, are just on another level.
Of course, the Kings themselves know this. From Dalembert in Jason Jones' Bee preview:
"Sometimes you have great players that start off in a good rhythm. That's why we have to make sure that doesn't happen. If they start to get in a good flow, it's going to be tough. It's going to be long night."
Paul Westphal says he won't start Dalembert to avoid the early deficit, and I think that's the right move; sitting Cousins, who has been a problem on defense early on (understandably so), would be a bandage, and DMC's offense is sorely needed.
All this talk about slowing the Lakers is easier said than done. Gasol is one of the most unguardable big men in the game; in the past, the best way to knock him out of his game was to literally knock him out of his game by bodying up and making him think twice about camping in the post. The Kings certainly have the bodies to do that, though after two Finals battles with the vicious Celtics and another series against Dwight Howard, I'm not sure Gasol is still susceptible to those tactics.
As for Kobe: hope he's cold. We've seen what he can do when he is hot. (I just puked in my mouth for the second time today. Coincidentally, both times had to do with the Lakers.)
MATCHUP OF THE GAME
Tyreke vs. Kobe. There will be no rest for either guard on defense. It didn't take Evans long to rediscover his unstoppable driving ability early this season -- he just shredded Cleveland in the second half and Toronto all game long. He's been passing the ball beautifully, as well; it's a matter of time before he has his first 10-assist game of the season. We all know what Kobe can do. We know Beno can't guard Bryant, and Fisher can't guard Evans. (We might see Artest guard Evans and Bryant guard Casspi, though.) This should be a great one-on-one matchup.
PLAYER TO WATCH
We've seen Cousins finish games on fire, but the team needs him to come out blazin' to put pressure on Gasol and the L.A. front line. That means avoiding foul trouble, and that means attacking the rim on offense (without being out of control). If he can't do it, it's completely understandable; as we've noted ad nauseum (and with nausea), the Lakers are incredible. But if he can? I just got teary thinking about it.
This is a 7:30 PM Pacific start on ESPN (!), Comcast SportsNet and KHTK 1140 AM. Game threads at 7:30 and 9. Let's go Kings.