The Lakers are 2nd in the West with a record of 33-13, six games behind first place San Antonio. They are 18-5 at home and 15-8 on the road although one of their road losses came at the Staple Center against the Clippers. LA is the #1 offensive team and ranks 8th in defense, and ranks 4th in differential behind Miami, San Antonio, and Boston.
LA had a 2 game losing streak against Denver and Phoenix, and then a 4 game losing streak against Utah, Indiana, Memphis and Houston, all by December 1st. And, they had another loss against Chicago, but all 7 losses occurred while Andrew Bynum was still recovering from off season surgery. The Lakers have only had 6 loses in the 22 games since Bynum’s return. They had losses to Milwaukee, Miami, San Antonio, and Memphis where they failed to score more than 85 ppg. They’re most recent losses came against the Clippers and Dallas where they scored 92 and 100 pts respectively.
In their first game against the Kings back on Nov. 3rd, the Kings had only 8 turnovers and won both the offensive and defensive rebounding battles. Which gave Sacramento 5 more FG opportunities, and even though we only shot 44% from the field we ended up with 1 more made field goal. Unfortunately, LA made 82% of their FT’s and 52% of their threes, to win 112-100. LA was led by Gasol, Odom and Bryant while the Kings were led by Tyreke with 21 and Cisco, Beno and Carl with 17. Omri, JT and Sammy combined to go 3-16 and DeMarcus was 3-13.
The December 3rd game in LA was a total disaster, with the Lakers winning 113-80. It was the largest losing margin of any game we played this season. The Kings again won the offensive rebounding battle by 5 but lost the defensive boards by 4. This time however we had 21 turnovers and LA ended up with 5 additional FGA’s. Both teams had identical FTA’s with the Lakers making 16-22 for 73% and the Kings going 13-22 for 59%. The Kings were 5-16 from three (31%) while the Lakers were 3-14 for (22%). But, it was inside where we really got hammered. The Lakers were 21-25 at the rim and 12-17 inside 10 ft for a shooting percentage of 76.7% in the paint. The Kings were 8-14 and 5-18 for 40.6%.
It was the Lakers guards (Bryant, Fisher, Brown) who really hurt us going 15-19 in the paint. Their starting frontcourt of Artest, Odom, and Gasol went 11-12 which didn’t actually help either. But, it seems pretty obvious that we have little or no interior help to go along with our lack of exterior defense. Also, there was very little team play from the Kings who scored 13 baskets on 5 assists down low while the Lakers scored 33 baskets on 18 assists. JT lead the Kings in scoring with 19, and Pooh and Tyreke were the only other Kings in double figures. Bryant lead the Lakers with 22, with 5 other players scoring in double figures.
Since the Dec 29th win over Memphis, the Kings are 5-10, and they have held their opponent to 100 pts or less in 7 of the 15 games. All of LA’s losses came when they failed to score more than 100 pts. The Kings are 4-3 in games under 100 possessions, and 1-7 in games with 100 or more possessions. Three of the Laker’s losses came in games of 92-94 possessions and the other three came in games of 86-88 possessions. The Lakers have played only two games since Bynum’s return of 100 or more possessions and they won both. So, in game with less than 100 possessions, the Lakers are 14-6 and the Kings are 4-3. It would seem that the best chance for Sacramento to win is by not turning over the ball, control the pace of the game to below their average of 96 possessions, play the up-tempo game mostly on breakaways when there’s a decided advantage, and protect the paint.
The Kings have shown the ability to do the first 3 but protecting the paint seems to be a skill that eludes them. And, it’s not just the exterior defense of the guards. We’ve been susceptible to penetration from the SF position as well. Almost any type of screen or pick works to get the ball handler free, and there is seldom any type of rotation help in the paint to stop the ball unless Dalembert is on the floor.
The answer might seem to be to double the ball handers off the screens, but that would be Bryant and Gasol, and they know how to pass out of the double team. And the usual recipient of the pass and subsequent easy basket is Odom, which is not the 3 headed-monster that you can take advantage off. There really seems to be no good choices. If you cheat or double off of Odom, Artest, or Fisher, you’re leaving a 39% three point shooters open. If you try to double off of Bynum to defend Gasol, Pau will find Bynum for a posterizing dunk. And, if you don’t double Byrant well the number 40+ comes to mind. And, if you go zone, Phil is smart enough to break it or simply put more 3pt shooters out there.
If at any time during the season we’d have shown that we could rotate off the double team, I’d say double Bryant the minute he gets the ball, but we haven’t. So, I guess I’d play Bryant man, and send help toward the top of the key to force him into the corner, or give up the ball to Fisher and make him beat us. I think we can play man down low with Dalembert and JT on Gasol and DeMarcus on Bynum. I wish we had an answer for Odom and Artest, but they are too strong for Casspi, so maybe more Carl at the 3 is in order. Not that they are likely to drive on us, but they’re both capable of cutting to the basket off the ball, and I don’t think Garcia or Casspi can slow them down.
Wow, I don’t believe I spent that much time trying to find a way to stop the Lakers. The reality is that the Kings need to keep them out of the paint and hope that they miss their outside jumpers. The main reason for watching this game is to see if our young guys can produce against one of the top 3 teams in the league. A win is a dream, and most but not all dreams rarely come true. Go Kings!!