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Kings vs. Lakers Preview: Rebuild Rivals, Round 2

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The Kings need to figure out how they can consistently win games without needing to spot their opponents a double-digit lead first.

Kimani Okearah

Bogi’s bomb on Thursday night was a new defining moment in Golden 1 Center’s history, and secured the Sacramento Kings a third-straight home-crowd-fueled comeback over their last three home games. But today’s rematch against these same Los Angeles Lakers—still without LeBron James—is in Los Angeles, and the Kings need to figure out how they can consistently win games without needing to spot their opponents a double-digit lead first.

When: Sunday, December 30th, 6:30 PM PST

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

TV: NBCSCA

Radio: KHTK Sports 1140 AM

For Your Consideration

The lack of LeBron changes the narrative of these Kings/Lakers matchups, but it doesn’t really change the importance. Both teams are still eager to prove that they really are a winning team, and that they have the winning rebuild. LeBron missing these last two games gave us a glimpse of how these Rival Rebuilds would have been competing in a timeline where one of these two franchises wasn’t blessed with the magical allure of an oppressive human jungle.

Somewhat hidden by Bogi’s masterpiece is the fact that across their two games with the Lakers this season, the Kings have played well for... 20 minutes or so? Bogi’s fourth quarter run was amazing to watch, and the full-team effort (De’Aaron Fox’s playmaking, some huge rebounds from Willie Cauley-Stein, and Justin Jackson’s clutch three free throws) was enough to secure the comeback victory... but in the two Laker contests so far, the Kings have shot just 39% (77/193) from the field and 29% (16/54) from three. If the Kings are going to win round 3, they need to hit their shots before the 6 minute mark of the 4th quarter.

The young Lakers are trying to prove they belong in a world dominated by King James, lest they end up shipped out in whatever megadeal is hiding around the corner. Lonzo Ball (20 points, 12 assists, 9 boards) was great on Thursday until a calf cramp caused him to duck Fox for the final 90 seconds. Brandon Ingram had some miscues late in the game, but he was still efficent (22 points on 8-19 shooting) and kept Iman Shumpter busy for most of the game. And Kyle Kuzma was the real star; 33 points and 9 rebounds on a variety of scoring moves. Justin Jackson’s high effort defense knocked Kuzma off balance on a few key fourth-quarter plays, but for much of the game Kuzma got what he wanted against any of the Kings defenders. If there is a stark difference between these two rebuilds, it’s the Kings lack of a real switchable wing player—someone who can battle against the guys like Kuzma. It’ll be interesting to see how the Kings adjust in round 3.

Prediction

Fox and Buddy both break out of their shooting slumps and remind Magic Johnson that the Kings have the two best players on the floor. Kings 120, Lakers 103.