With both teams needing a loss to help secure their lottery standing come June, the Kings visit to Los Angeles tonight could turn into another one of the ugly, fourth quarter snooze inducing, tank-offs we’ve seen recently. A Lakers victory would essentially seal them into the third worst record, which would result in a 53.1% chance of L.A. dropping below third place, losing their pick to Philadelphia, and crushing LaVar Ball’s dream of secretly suiting up for his son in Los Angeles to prove to everyone that he’s better than Jordan. Sacramento, on the other hand, can try to drop a spot or two in the next week if they can manage to lose out for the rest of the season. Multiple wins, however, could cause them to jump up into the 8th or 9th spot.
Luke Walton has already shut down a healthy Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov for the rest of the year and D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson are questionable for tonight, while up-and-coming rookie Brandon Ingram is probable. The Kings will probably rest one of their point guards, if not both, along with Kosta Koufos and a couple of other veterans and let their young players eat up most of the available minutes.
Although both teams will be actively trying to lose, the contest may actually produce an intriguing match up between two members of the 2016 Draft Class. Not only were Brandon Ingram and Buddy Hield both lottery selections, but Ingram was also the other prospect the Kings aggressively pursued in the DeMarcus Cousins blockbuster trade, according to multiple reports.
The number two overall pick had a rough start to the year as he averaged only 8 points per game, but since the All-Star break he’s found a bit of a rhythm, scoring 13.4 points per game (3rd among rookies), grabbing 3.9 rebounds, and dishing out 2.4 assists. Even with his recent increase in scoring, if Sacramento is interested in actually winning the game, they should try and push him to the perimeter. Ingram doesn’t shoot better than 40% anywhere outside of 3 feet, including a miserable 29% from three point range.
From Sacramento’s side of things, Buddy Hield has been absolutely on fire since being acquired by the Kings. Post-trade, The Bahamian Baller is averaging 14.4 PPG (2nd among rookies), is shooting 43.4% from deep (1st among rookies, min 2 attempts per game), and is averaging 4 rebounds per game (6th among rookies). If the Lakers actually want to win the game, they should look to trap Buddy whenever he has a live dribble as he tends to cough the ball up under pressure.
Theoretically, we should see a lot of scoring tonight and very little defense as both squads are among the bottom four teams in defensive rating. The Lakers feature a tied-for-worst 111.1 while the Kings average a not much better, 4th-worst, 108.9. Since the All-Star break, both teams are also in the bottom 10 of points per game allowed as well, with Los Angeles surrendering 115.4 PPG and Sacramento 108.1 PPG.
Tonight isn’t the marquee, prime time, must see match up of the early 2000’s, but it’s a very winnable game for the Kings and the young guns should lead the way.
Tipoff is at 7:30pm!