THE SCOUTING REPORT
HighTops, take it away ...
The Kings had fought to keep their one-time 20-pt lead from disappearing. So, with just 4.1 seconds to go and with a 2 pt lead the Kings seemed to have weathered the storm.
Meanwhile, somewhere across the country a little white-haired man sat in front of his television and muttered to himself. "Oy vey, this can’t be happening, this is going to kill our entire merchandise marketing strategy". Then is a strong New Jersey accent, he called out "Stewie, get me the red phone quickly."
Three thousand miles west, a pager went off in an arena and the question as to whether or not the Kings could hold on was answered. Sergio Rodriguez could do nothing from his position lying on the floor in front of the ref, as Bryant sunk the 3-pt answer. And the implementation of the marketing plan went on as scheduled.
A week earlier the Kings played the Lakers in Sacramento and came away just as disappointed. Although the Kings didn’t shoot as well -- 42 of 105 shots or 40% -- they had taken the World Champs to double overtime before being outscored 11-2. So while they had more offensive boards, more assists, more steals, and fewer turnovers, having three starters shoot 17 for 49 or 35% from the field left the door wide open for the Lakers to steal one on the road.
There will be a few changes this time around: Ron Artest had missed the last two games after suffering a concussion in an accident at home. Martin and Garcia hadn’t returned from their early season injuries, and Tyreke missed the Jan. 1st game with an ankle injury. Today, Artest is fully recovered, as are Garcia and Tyreke, and Landry has replaced Martin. And the Kings are again playing .500 ball.
The Lakers stopped a four-game road losing streak with a Friday night victory in Phoenix, and hope to continue winning on their Northern California road trip to stay ahead of Denver who trails by 3.0 games and Dallas who’s 3.5 back in the West.
Bynum has been particularly solid of late. In the last 2 games, he’s shot 8-of-12 from the field for 22 and 18 points, respectively, and has been able to get to the basket for a variety of dunks and lay-ups. He’s averaging 7.5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and zero turnovers, and there’s been a noticeable improvement on defense. "I like what he’s done defensively," Jackson said after the win in Phoenix. "I thought he’s played pretty good defense."
Aside from getting the ball inside, Jackson offered some other keys to winning the game. "The big thing is loose balls, turnovers, rebounds," he said. "You (want to) give teams one attempt so that you’re getting the majority of the shots and you’re limiting them by not giving them open floor opportunities."
The Kings have some big bodies to throw at L.A., such as Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson, Sean May, Joey Dorsey and newly acquired Carl Landry, who gave the Lakers problems while playing for the Houston Rockets.
Landry played against the Lakers three times this season while with Houston. In the Nov.4th, 103-102 overtime loss in Houston Carl scored 20pts on 9-12 shooting with 8 rebounds. In the Nov. 15th 101 to 91 Houston victory in LA, Carl scored 15pts on 5-10 shooting with 9 rebounds. And, in the Jan. 5th loss in LA, Carl scored 19pts on 7-11 shooting with 6 rebounds. What should be noted is that Pau Gasol missed all 3 games with hamstring injuries.
January 1st at the Staples Center, the Kings, playing without Tyreke Evans (sprained right ankle), received a career-high 30 points from Spencer Hawes, a career-high 23 points from Omri Casspi, and a career-high 13 assists from Beno Udrih, and still lost 109-108 to the Lakers. And, although Tyreke has been flirting with triple doubles all week, the Lakers defense is more like Portland’s than Minnesota’s when it comes to defending the basket and shot blocking. So, I don’t anticipate any career games tonight, but a superior team defensive effort would go a long way to ending the Lakers dominance at Arco.
The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 games at ARCO Arena and 6-1 in their last seven.
This season, the Lakers are 10-6 on both ends of back-to-back games, so there’s little hope that the Kings will benefit from the Lakers playing Golden State the night before. This game might come down to a contest of will and heart, Kobe Bryant’s against the youth of the Kings and that’s a match up I’m willing to take.
Speaking of Kobe, the NBA released its Most Popular Jerseys list with Kobe Bryant’s #24 once again listed as no. 1, a ranking Bryant has now held since the start of the 2008-09 season. And once again it listed the Los Angeles Lakers as no. 1 in "Most Popular NBA Team Merchandise."
Quick, somebody hide that red phone.
THE KEY BATTLE
Beno Udrih vs. Kobe Bryant. The Slovenian Tasmanian can make Kobe work -- he's done it before -- and that's the key to keeping Kobe from going completely ballistic from minute No. 1. Donte Greene, Ime Udoka and Omri Casspi will likely get the non-Reke work on Kobe on the defensive end; he can drill jumpers all day and all night ... but you can't let him drive. Make him shoot.
They will not be chanting M-V-P for No. 24. They will be chanting M-V-P for No. 13. For the Kings. Tyreke Evans. In case you didn't follow.
7 PM tip. Get there early to do the cheek swab for bone marrow matching! Drown out the Lakers fans! Send off Sam Amick right!
Game threads at 7 and 8:15, a post-gamer at 9:45.