Kings-Lakers: Defense Keeping Rivalry Alive

Ryan WardCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2008

Coming into this game, almost everyone counted out the Sacramento Kings against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Not only because the Lakers are arguably the best team in the West and quite possibly the NBA, but because there best player Kevin Martin would be watching from the sidelines due to injury.

Throughout the last decade or so, the Kings and Lakers have had a pretty-heated rivalry from battling as Western Conference powerhouses during the Lakers championship years, and continuing when both teams went through rebuilding years.

It seems no matter what players have come and gone, whether it be Mike Bibby, Chris Webber, Ron Artest, Shaq, or the Lakers' talented role players of old like Brian Shaw, Robert Horry, and Rick Fox this rivalry has not died and should stand the test of time.

It would be hard to argue that the Lakers have not improved considerably on defense since last season—but you definitely would not have thought that if you saw the Lakers defense break down the way it did against the Kings on Tuesday night in Sacramento.

The Kings basically kept the Lakers and Kobe Bryant in check all night long with their motivated defense. Kobe did end up with 28 points, but he could not throw a rock in the ocean with the way he was shooting. The Kings figured out how to play Kobe early by throwing two defenders at him all game, mostly Kobe struggled with John Salmons being in his face for most of the game.

Like I said, Kobe did end up scoring 28 points, but he only hit a pitiful nine of 25 shots. After not being able to finish at the rim because of the impressive Kings defense, Kobe resorted to jacking up threes. He hit a couple threes late, but it was just too little too late.

The only other Laker to complement Kobe's 28 was Pau Gasol, who finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds.

For resasons I don't really understand, Andrew Bynum was not in the game down the stretch in the fourth quarter. The Lakers were getting destroyed by the Kings' outside shooting late in the game, but with the Bynum being the defensive force and dominant rebounder in the paint, I really don't see why he wasn't in the game to limit the Kings second-chance scoring.

Lamar Odom had a decent game along with Pau and Kobe, scoring 11 points and ripping down eight rebounds, but the Lakers just couldn't compete with the Kings who just couldn't miss.

The Kings came into this game with only five wins, 16 losses, and their best player Kevin Martin in street clothes, but Francisco Garcia and John Salmons picked up the slack and lead their team to victory over a very good Lakers team.

Not only was John Salmons solid on offense with 21 points, but he played the best defense on Kobe Bryant that I have seen this season.

Francisco Garcia had probably one of his best performances of his career against the Lakers Tuesday night.  He didn't have huge numbers with only 21 points, but he did all the small things that don't show up in the stat sheet.

Point guard Bobby Jackson was also big spark for the Kings off the bench, as he hit some big three pointers and finished with 15 points, hitting three of six from deep.

It is early in the season, but it is pretty obvious looking at the Kings' 6-16 record and the how competitive the West is again this season that the Sacramento is headed toward another disappointing season.

But for some reason they continue to have the Lakers number.

Even though this is a huge win for the Kings it may be short lived because they will face the Lakers again in Los Angeles on Friday and you better believe the Lakers will be looking to make a statement in that game.

NEXT LAKERS GAME: Phoenix Suns @ Los Angeles Lakers Friday, Dec. 12th 7:30pm PST