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Game 58 - at LA Lakers

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Just another game, right?

Redonkulous.

Even Bill Simmons has spit the knackered idea that the Lakers-Kings rivalry is done:

"... there IS no Lakers-Kings rivalry anymore -- it died about three years ago and wasn't even that heated to begin with."

Wasn't even that heated? Rick Fox's jaw and Jackie Christie's purse would like to disagree with you, sir. (And that was during a preseason game.)

Yes, the Shaq trade followed by the methodical internal demolition of the Glory Kings dissipated the rivalry, just as decades of Boston's managerial ineptitude and shrunken talent base has weakened the Celtics/Lakers rivalry. But I won't rewrite history - Celtics/Lakers was one of the greatest sports rivalries of all-time. Certainly, few seemingly eternal bouts were more exciting.

... as is the case with the early decade Kings/Lakers rivalry. It's not just Kings fans who reference that Game 7 - NBA fans all over the country still talk about it. It was by far the most compelling three hours of basketball this decade, and possibly since the 1980s. Seriously, from start to finish - has there been a game in the last 17 years with more on the line, more dramatic and compelling storylines, more fascinating actors than Webber and Shaq and Bibby and Kobe and Peja and Phil and Vlade and Horry? What, you think MJ versus the Jazz or Detroit/San Antonio was better TV? Liar. We poisoned a guy to win a title!

Yes, the rivalry is much weaker since most of the moving parts that made that drama have moved on, not the least of which is the talent level of the Kings. But don't you skeptics go and try to take away our memories. Asshats.

(And it's not like the games have been boring since the 'good ole days.' Lamar Odom FTW, anyone? And while completely mindf*cking in every possible way, that disaster in January was completely breathless in its drama. Don't act like Kobe doesn't get geeked for SAC.)

Business, please:

STARTERS:

SACRAMENTO
PG - Mike Bibby's son got game! Also, I'm going to start saying nice things about Mike so he'll let me borrow his white Lamborghini over the summer. On that note: if you round to the full percent, Mike Bibby is shooting 40%! Hells yeah!
SG - In a Bee article last week, Shareef Abdur-Rahim referred to Kevin Martin as "Mr. Fifty," referring to dude's field goal percentage. Does Shareef also call Ron Artest "Mr. Forty-Four?" How about Vitaly Potapenko: "The Real Agent Zero?"
SF - Speaking of Monsieur Artest, who you should definitely ask for advice: We can already see his game tonight, right? He's going to try to 'out-Kobe' Kobe Bryant. Which means we can look forward to 22+ FGAs on an array of fadeaways, turnarounds, runners, and parking-lot three-balls. Sweet! That's just what I woke up hoping for!
PF - Kenny Thomas is an English soul singer.
C  - I know he's like Public Enemy #6 around here, but Brad Miller has been playing well since the start of February. His impact on Mike and Kevin's offense is so evident. Also, his impact on the rebounding figures is so evident.

MORDOR
PG - The affable and astute Kurt from Forum Blue & Gold reminds us that Smush Parker has trouble defending the high pick-and-roll. Bibby has been a Laker-killer for damn near a decade now. Parker's presence could help continue that cause tonight.
SG - Want to hear something redonkulous? Kobe Bryant is taking seven less shots per game this season - and he's still #6 in the league in FGAs per game. He's 2005-06 season was f*cking silly.
SF - Maurice Evans will likely get the Kevin Martin assignment tonight, says Kurt. Evans is a good wing defender for two big reasons - he's quick for his size and he's athletic as hell. Well, um, if we're talking about quickness and athleticism... then, Go Speedracer Go! (However, Evans sat out practice yesterday and might not play tonight. Luke Walton's not quite ready to return, which brings us to this BRIAN COOK ALERT. Someone, please get in his face when he tees up in the first quarter. Thanks.)
PF - After that great Kobe-less start, Lamar Odom has kinda fallen off. The Lakers were dark-horse contenders when Odom was on his offensive game and Luke Walton was out-of-his-gourd. Now? They're more resembling postseason also-rans.
C  - When Andrew Bynum decided to get awesome at the ripe old age of 19 1/2, all my worst fears came true. He could be a 20 PER guy next year. Consider me frightened.


THE LINE:
The Lakers are 7.5-point favorites, which is danger territory. Tight games can turn into 8-point losses pretty easily, especially since Eric Musselman likes to play the foul-til-you-can't-foul-no-more game. If the line were +8, I'd take the Kings in a heartbeat. +7.5 is risky. Still, you know this is going to be a close one, and the majority of close games end with margins smaller than eight. Take the Kings.

PLAYOFF/LOTTO WATCH
The Kings are 2.5 games behind the Clippers for 8th in the conference. In front of them, the Wolves have lost four of five and the Warriors have lost four straight. New Orleans has won 7 of 10.

The Kings have the ninth worst record in the league.

PREGAME PEP TALK:
Win one for the gipper! Muss needs the support of a united team! (crickets)

7:30 pm. Good luck, and good night.