Utah, San Antonio, and Dallas all have better records than the Lakers. And LA is on their longest losing streak since 2007, with consecutive losses to the Jazz, Pacers, Grizzlies and Rockets. So, what implications does that have for the upcoming game between the Kings and LA? None, absolutely none. The Laker have the same cast of characters that beat our brains out 112 to 100 on Nov. 3rd. If you were lucky to have been able to mercifully put it out of your mind, let me torture you again.
Kobe Bryant recorded his 17th career triple-double with a game-high 30 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists helping the Lakers extended a nine-point halftime lead to as many as 20 in the third quarter. Third quarter have any significance for anyone? Sacramento closed the gap to seven late in the 4th quarter, but Derek Fisher scored six straight points to put the game out of reach. All five Lakers starters scored in double-digits with Pau Gasol posting 22 points and a game-high 11 rebs, Lamar Odom had18 points and 8 rebs, Ron Artest scored 17 pts while Derek Fisher finished with 11 pts. I’ll do the addition for you, their starters scored 98 pts.
Tyreke led the Kings with 21 points, Beno, Carl and Cisco each scored 17 pts. While Cousins had 11 pts and 6 rebs in 20 min as the starter, and JT and Sammy each had 10 rebs but only combined for 4 pts. And, Omri was the only starter not to score in double-figures with only 3 pts. The Kings lost in spite of holding the Lakers bench to 14 pts, 9 by Matt Barnes and 6 by Steve Blake while the Kings bench scored 31. The Kings outshot the Lakers by 1 more FG on 7 more attempts, but LA made 5 more threes and made 9 more FT’s on 5 more attempts.
The Kings seem to be playing a better brand of defense, but are still prone to fouling and have been beaten at the foul line the last 2 games as well as in our last meeting with LA. And, LA continues to dominate the Kings. Including the Nov 3rd game, the Lakers are 9-1 against the Kings in the last 10 meetings, and are 8-2 in the last 10 meetings at the Staple Center. In fact the last time the Kings beat LA in the Staple Center was March 9, 2008 when the Kings squeaked out a victory 114-113.
Well, this time around, the Lakers will have the same basic line up with Bynum still out, but Theo Ratliff inactive instead of Luke Walton. For the Kings, Dalembert could be on the inactive list which will be 1 player shorter with the release of Antoine Wright. The Kings also look to be adding one more starting line-up to their already growing list. Although it’s anyone guess which line-up Westphal will come up with this time.
We pretty much know who the Laker’s starters will be with Bynum out. Gasol will be at center, Odom at PF, Artest at SF, and the backcourt will be Fisher and Bryant. Who starts for the Kings isn’t of any major significance because starters in Westphal’s rotations seldom all get starters minutes. But, here’s my guess.
For defensive purposes, Luther and Tyreke should start in the backcourt, with Luther defending Kobe. Kobe might have the size advantage, but Luther is strong and can stay in front of Kobe and keep him from driving into the lane. And, Luther has the hops to challenge Kobe for rebounds. If Kobe is able to score over Luther, so be it. I’d rather have Kobe taking jump shots than going to the basket, and the Pacers we’re able to beat LA in LA even with Kobe going for 41pts.
With Dalembert listed as questionable, the Kings could be down to Cuz and JT as our center which is going to severely handicap us defensively in the paint. Neither JT nor Cuz have shown themselves to be a shot blocker nor do they have the defense to alter shots around the rim. And, while Landry held his own offensively against Odom in the last game, his starting really hurts us on the boards. Cousins can use his big body to keep Gasol off the offensive boards, but his lack of vertical lift will allow Gasol to dominate the defensive boards. And, Carl’s lack of defensive rebs will only make the matter worse.
It’s unlikely that the Kings will recall Whiteside who’s with the BigHorns who are scheduled to play the Dakota Wizards in Bismarck, ND. But it’s also unlikely that Westphal would have thrown the rookie in to the fire after only one game in Reno even if he were recalled. So if Dalembert isn’t able to play, for me, the best alternative would be to start Cousins, Landry and Greene in the front court. Then on defense have Landry and Greene switch defensive assignments. Greene has shown improved rebounding and is an outstanding shot blocker, and may be a better match up with Odom because of his size. While Landry has the size and has shown, with his recent Flagrant Foul call, a willingness to mix it up even with someone like Artest. And, Artest is just the type of player that Westphal was thinking about earlier in the season when he mentioned the possibility of Carl playing the SF. Without Sammy, a 3-man rotation at the 4 & 5 of Cuz, JT, and Donte may be our best option against Odom & Gasol.
Gasol has played between 39-46 mpg in the last 3 losses and Odom has played between 40-45 mpg. So our reserves at the 4 & 5 are most likely going to be playing the majority of their minutes against LA’s starting bigs, except for the minutes when rookie Derrick Character subs. Barnes will sub for Artest, and Steve Blake and Shannon Brown will sub for Fisher and Bryant. If Carl were able to defend Artest, we might see Phil Jackson, go more heavily to Barnes and make Westphal move Greene back to SF and put Carl back at PF or PW could counter with Omri or Cisco. Either way, I wouldn’t expect to see JT and Cuz playing major minutes together since they are both prone to Foul Trouble and we need one at center at all times. Plus, I don't believe Cuz's conditioning has reached the point where he can play extended minutes, so JT is going to have to be rested when he comes in to sub for DeMarcus. And, I’d prefer to see Donte at the 4 over Jackson at least against bigs like Odom and Gasol.
Of course the Iron Man could play, and it’s more likely that PW goes in a totally different direction then what I’ve been suggesting. What I do know for certain is that if the Kings have even the slightly chance of winning, DeMarcus needs to stay out of foul trouble, and the Kings need to make Kobe a one dimensional player. No, triple double this time around. Kobe had 6 of his team’s 9 assists at the rim; the entire Kings team only had 4 assists at the rim. And, Kobe ended up with half of LA’s 24 assists.
Go ahead and watch this game hoping for a win, but the odds are you’ll only come away disappointed. I’ll be watching to get a glimmer of the potential of DeMarcus and Tyreke. And, hopefully, PW will chew out Cousins on the plane ride, and DeMarcus will be forced to hold his rebuttal because of the no talk back rule. And then he goes into the game angry and takes it out on LA. Big Chasm here, please don’t fall in. Go Kings.