L.A. Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Though Sacramento has lost its last five games, the Kings are not an opponent to be taken lightly.
As impressive as the Lakers have been over the last few games, they are not only continuing to acclimate themselves to D'Antoni's offense but also have a target on their backs after dismantling the Kings a little over a week ago.
Morale is non-existent in Sacramento right now, and the Kings are looking to build any kind of momentum that they can. Almost needless to say, pulling off the upset over Hollywood's brightest would be a great place to start.
But will the Kings be able to capitalize off of a Lakers team coming off a grueling victory on Tuesday night, or will Kobe Bryant and company bury Sacramento even deeper in its own misery?
Time: Wednesday, November 21st, 10 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Los Angeles Lakers (6-5), Sacramento Kings (2-8)
Betting Line: Lakers -5.5
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Lakers: Steve Blake (abdomen, out); Steve Nash (leg, out).
Key Storyline: Can the Lakers keep this crazy training rolling?
The Lakers are riding a statistical high.
Los Angeles is putting points on the board while protecting the ball at a high rate and have three straight victories to show for it. Its most recent victory over the Brooklyn Nets wasn't the prettiest of displays, but the team got the job done and has climbed over .500 for the first time all season.
Now the Lakers have the pleasure of facing a Kings team that is entrenched in more turmoil than it ever was. Though that would imply an easy win is on the horizon, D'Antoni and the Lakers have to be mindful of their opponent.
The Kings are horrible, but they're also desperate. Combine that with the fact that they're not so much as inept as they are underachievers, and you have a potentially dangerous unit.
Los Angeles' starters are also coming off of a heavy night, as they enter the latter half of a back-to-back. Every starter, aside from Darius Morris, logged at least 39 minutes of burn against the Nets.
No one's about to criticize D'Antoni for doing what it took to win, nor are they going to ask him to monitor the minutes of his best players, but how the Lakers respond to such a heavy workload will say a great deal in determining the outcome of this game.
Key Matchup: Dwight Howard, C, Lakers vs. DeMarcus Cousins, C, Kings
The battle of the two towers was surprisingly close the first time around.
In the Lakers' first bout against the Kings, Howard dropped 19 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots. He was also just 3-of-8 from the foul line and only managed to get off 12 shot attempts in 33 minutes of play.
Athletically, Howard has the clear edge over Cousins. He's quicker and boasts a much higher level of awareness on the defensive end of the floor.
That said, Cousins didn't roll over to Howard the first time, and he's not about to do so the second time.
In their first meeting, Cousins put up 16 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, snagged six rebounds and grabbed four steals. While he will have to work harder on the glass in this one, he matched Howard almost point-for-point and was a big reason why Los Angeles' behemoth wasn't allotted many shots.
Howard still has the obvious edge in this one, but this matchup has been close before, and if it's just as close again, the Lakers may not be able to simply traipse their way to victory in Sacramento.
Metta World Peace, SF, Lakers
Somewhat surprisingly, the Kings are holding opponents to just 32.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc, the fifth-best mark in the league.
D'Antoni's run-and-gun offense dictates that his team not only attempt but also make plenty of three-pointers.
Enter World Peace.
With Sacramento's defense likely to focus almost exclusively on Bryant, World Peace should receive a plethora of open looks. In fact, don't be surprised if he surpasses the nine three-pointers that he jacked up against the Nets on Tuesday night.
His ability to knock down a high percentage of those open threes could ultimately prove to be the difference between the Lakers blowing the Kings out of their own building and a game that is too close for comfort.
Tyreke Evans, PG, Kings
Sacramento has experimented with Evans more so than usual this season. He's played a wide variety of positions and has been used in many different ways.
Against Los Angeles, however, his role needs to be clear: Keep the ball moving on offense.
Evans is the Kings' leading assist man despite the fact that he dishes out just 3.1 per night. Going nose-to-nose against a Lakers defense that features a feisty Darius Morris and proven headaches like World Peace and Bryant means that he's going to have to do more, though.
The only way to truly beat Los Angeles' newly-motivated perimeter defense is to keep it on its toes.
Over-dribbling is the enemy of success in this one, so for the Kings to have a chance, Evans must take note.
And then take charge.
Pau Gasol, PF, Lakers
Gasol will be going up against the underwhelming stylings of Jason Thompson and the premature play of Thomas Robinson for much of the game. And he needs to take advantage of that.
Outside of Cousins, the Kings do not have a premiere interior defender. More importantly, though, they certainly don't have the necessary versatility to defend the stretch forward that Gasol has become.
Howard is going to have his hands full in the post playing opposite, which should create extra scoring opportunities for Gasol.
Should he be able to continue his streak of three straight games of posting 16 or more points, the Lakers will have no problem cruising to victory.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Kings
If there's one thing that the Lakers lack, it's depth.
Sacramento isn't exactly a highly-touted source of depth, but it has some potent athletes on the bench, none more important in this one than Brooks.
Assuming that Blake remains on the shelf, Brooks will find himself spending plenty of time playing opposite Chris Duhon, a solid playmaker but horrific defender.
Brooks' first inclination is to shoot, which will actually be embraced against Los Angeles.
If he can get by Duhon—or even Blake for that matter—and get some easy looks at the rim or draw in the defenses only to hit the open man, the Kings could just make this a contest after all.
Prediction: Lakers 107, Kings 93
The Lakers may be spent after expending so much energy against the Nets merely 24 hours prior, but this game isn't going to be close.
Which will snag a victory in Sacramento Tuesday night?
Sacramento is allowing 100 points per game and losing by an average of 8.8 points per contest, the worst margin in the NBA. Throw in an offense that is dead last in the Association in assists per game, and Los Angeles should have no problem executing on either end of the floor.
That aside, the Kings will be able to put some points on the board of their own. Fatigue won't doom the Lakers in this one, but it will play a factor.
After running the floor continuously, Los Angeles' ability to get back in time on defense will likely be impaired to some extent. But not to the point where the Lakers give the Kings hope.
Kobe and company are on a mission to reestablish themselves as the powerhouse that they were considered to be over the offseason.
And it's less than likely that they allow Sacramento—of all teams—to stand in their way.
All stats in this article are accurate as of November 21st, 2012.
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