It’s been a disappointing season for the Sacramento Kings, who are 23 games under .500 and bound for a lottery pick in the 2014 draft. DeMarcus Cousins has led the Kings, who are 2-3 in their last five games, but are coming off a five-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans. The Lakers have had their own issues this season and are also 2-3 in their last five games. Wednesday will be a back-to-back situation for the Lakers, who have struggled in such games. With a win, the Lakers will get the season sweep of the Kings.
Frontcourt: Cousins is averaging career-highs in points and rebounds per game this season, and has regular success against the Lakers. The physical center is coming off a 35-point, 14-rebound performance against the New Orleans Pelicans. When focused, Cousins is potent scorer down on the block who has improved his midrange jump shot. The 23-year-old Kentucky product is also a force on the glass, tied for third in the league with 46 double-doubles.
Joining Cousins in the frontcourt is athletic forward, Rudy Gay and rebounding machine, Reggie Evans. Since being traded to the Kings in December, Gay is averaging 18.2 points per game. In the last meeting between the Kings and Lakers, Gay scored 32 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Evans was traded to the Kings in February and has continued to do what he’s built his career on — rebounding and playing defense.
Backcourt: As the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Isaiah Thomas has put together a successful NBA career, increasing his production in each of his three seasons. This year, Thomas is averaging career-highs in points, assists and field goal percentage. However, Thomas missed the Kings’ last four games with a quad injury.
Ray McCallum has started in Thomas’ place, logging over 40 minutes in his previous four starts. One of McCallum’s starts included playing all 48 minutes in a road loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Rookie guard Ben McLemore has also helped fill the void left by Thomas’ four-game absence by scoring in double digits in each game. McLemore shot 42.7 percent in the month of March, which is his highest field goal percentage for any month this season.
Rookie guard Ben McLemore has taken advantage of starting, increasing his points per game from 6.9 to 9.0. McLemore has scored at least 10 points in his last five games, all of which were starts. The rookie guard’s best game during that stretch was an 18-point effort complete with 5-of-6 from 3-point territory in a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Keys To Lakers Victory:
Hold Sacramento Under 100 points: In their last three wins, the Lakers have held their opponent to under 100 points. Conversely, the Lakers have lost their last seven games when their opponent eclipsed 100 points. The Kings are averaging 101.0 points per game this season and have scored at least 100 points in three of their last five games. With plenty of scorers on the Kings roster, the Lakers routinely porous defense figures to have its hands full on Wednesday night.
Three-Point Shooting: Pau Gasol’s struggles to efficiently score down low, coupled with Kobe Bryant not being available, the Lakers have had to rely on 3-point shooting to compete or win games, regardless of how well they’re shooting from behind the arc. Nick Young made six 3-pointers in Tuesday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, and Ryan Kelly and Jodie Meeks have shown the ability to knock down the long ball.
Bench Scoring: Similar to three-point shooting, bench scoring has often correlated to wins this season. Young leads all Laker bench players with 16.9 points per game and Xavier Henry has contributed when healthy. Production off the Kings’ bench has taken a bit of a hit with McCallum being forced into the starting lineup.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings (26-48)
7:00 PM PST, April 2, 2014
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, Calif.
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPNRadio 710 ESPNLA
Sacramento Kings Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Ray McCallum
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Reggie Evans
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: SF Travis Outlaw, PF Jason Thompson, PF Derrick Williams
Lakers Projected Starting LineUp:
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SG: Kent Bazemore
PF: Chris Kaman
C: Pau Gasol
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