After the Sacramento Kings played streak killers to an undermanned Clippers on a ten-game win streak on Saturday night, they found themselves without another game until Wednesday night's matchup with Los Angeles' other team, the cellar-dwelling Lakers.
The last time the Kings met up with the Lakers was on January 7th, Kobe's last game in Sacramento. The game featured a monumental collapse from the KIngs, who ended up needing some last second heroics to win after letting L.A. come back from 28 down. The Lakers are 3-7 in January and losers of seven of their last eight games. Meanwhile the Kings are 5-3 in January and will hopefully be looking to step on the gas early and allow the important pieces some rest with Atlanta looming in Sacramento on Thursday. As always the game can be seen on CSN-CA (TWC SN, TWC D for our LA viewers), or can be heard on KHTK 1140 (710 am ESPN again for those in LA). Lets talk Kings basketball.
A Few Things to Consider:
Both Ends of the Court: As fans of the Kings have come to see more and more of this 2015-2016 version of their team, the one real constant has been how frustratingly good the Kings can look on offense, and how absolutely bad they tend to look on defense. While Vivek's Souza band is now jazzing it up to the tune of being the #1 team in the league in pace, 3rd in the league in scoring and 4th in field goal percentage, they've completely abandoned any shred of consistency on the defensive side of the basketball. As of Wednesday night, the Kings are 23rd in defensive rating, dead last in the league in opponents points per game, and give up more three point attempts and makes than any other team in the league. They're also allowing their opponents to shoot of 51% from inside the arc, good for 27th in the league.
What does this mean in terms of Wednesday night's matchup against the Lakers? On January 7th, the Kings allowed the Lakers to shoot only 40% in their first quarter, where they outscored Kobe and his 14 horcruxes, 38-21. However, from that point on the Lakers shot 60% from the field and 72.5% from inside the three point arc. In the second half, the Lakers even stepped up from outside, hitting 6-14 from deep. It is understandable to assume that even the worst of teams will get hot every now and again. However, this is a Laker's squad that is 30th in both two and three point field goal percentages, and for them to suddenly hit shots at a clip like that? Well, it takes more than a hot night from one team to have that happen.
The Kings and their fans are talking playoffs in the middle of January, something that hasn't really been necessary or warranted in a decade. For all this talk to translate into an extended run at the 8th seed, or even the elusive .500 mark, the Sacramento Kings cannot allow teams as statistically inept as the Los Angeles Lakers to walk over their defense. "A win is a win" is a hard thing to argue against, but not nearly as hard as bad habits are to break around playoff time.
Paint the Town Purple: In their previous two match-ups against the Lakers, the Sacramento Kings have taken advantage of anything and everything in the paint. With Roy Hibbert still being the only known X-Men with the power to speed up objects around him, and the rest of the Laker bigs too young or too small to affect the Kings offense, the Kings have put up a mind numbing 80 and 66 points in the paint respectively in their first two games against the Lakers this season. With a few days of rest for Sacramento, Kings fans should again look to see the Kings putting up big numbers close to the hoop. Last game, DeMarcus Cousins simply outgunned and outsmarted Hibbert and the gang to the tune of 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists, while shooting 8-12 from the field. Hibbert was in constant foul trouble against Cousins, seeing only 12 minutes of action total. It will be interesting to see if Byron Scott decides to play the game differently knowing how many points his Sacramento opponents have scored in the paint in their first two games, or if he'll continue to allow the same looks for Kings bigs and hope his big men rise to the occasion.
Odds and Ends:
This game again sees the Kings matching up against former small forward, Metta World Peace. Unfortunately, the Kings collapse at home in Sacramento meant not seeing World Peace come off the bench, and its very well possible that we've already seen the last time that he plays professional basketball against the Kings.
Roy Hibbert, as always, is slow.
Prediction: Willie Cauley-Stein plays like a R.O.Y candidate, Byron Scott forgets his playbook at an Orange Julius, and the Kings don't need to win in "nick of time" fashion: Kings 120, Lakers 100.
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