The Los Angeles Lakers have only one more chance to avoid finishing the 2021 preseason with no wins to their name. L.A. travels north to face the Sacramento Kings on Thursday in the last rehearsal before the new campaign begins on Oct. 19.
The Kings have had an impressive preseason, winning all of their three games against the Phoenix Suns, L.A. Clippers, and Portland Trail Blazers. More importantly, they successfully kept their players healthy; only forward Marvin Bagley III’s appearance seems questionable on Thursday due to a knee injury.
The exact opposite can be said about the Lakers. Tuesday’s 111-99 loss to the Golden State Warriors extended L.A.’s streak to five consecutive defeats despite the debut of the team’s Big 3: LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis.
The All-Star trio showed glimpses of their potential. Davis led the scoring with 20 points and Westbrook impressed with team-high six assists and 10 rebounds, registering his first double-double as a Laker.
James added 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Expect head coach Frank Vogel to start the game with the Big 3 again as, despite the solid numbers, the three All-Stars also showed a desperate need to clock in more minutes alongside each other in the coming weeks.
Sloppiness kept creeping into James and Westbrook’s game, indicating the two veterans are yet to figure out the most optimal way to share ballhandling responsibilities. They accounted for 11 of the team’s 20 turnovers, holding back L.A.’s already jammed offense.
The Lakers shot just 41.4% from the field and 32.3% from downtown — all the while allowing the Warriors to outscore them by 12 points without Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson in the lineup.
However, Golden State only dashed away only after James, Westbrook and Davis left the game at the end of the third quarter when the Lakers were losing by just one point. The Big 3 is likely to see their minutes extended in this final test before the 2021-22 season’s tip-off.
Vogel might also want to take another look at a formation featuring a traditional big, especially as DeAndre Jordan watched the loss to the Warriors from the bench. Austin Reaves is set to play significant minutes off the bench again after receiving lots of compliments from Vogel and James over the weekend and spending as many as 27 minutes on the floor on Tuesday.
Trevor Ariza and Talen Horton-Tucker are missing the game following ankle and thumb surgeries, respectively. L.A. is also without Kendrick Nunn, Malik Monk and Wayne Ellington, who nurse short-term injuries but could still recover in time for the season opener next week.
None of the Lakers All-Stars appeared worried about the far-from-ideal preseason form and results. They will likely be unbothered if L.A. happens to fall to the Kings, too.
But as veterans and future Hall-of-Famers, they know that optics truly matter. Hence, it’s hard to expect anything other than the Lakers stepping on the hardwood at Golden 1 Center focused and determined, trying to make sure they start the 2021-22 season just as they hope to end it — as winners.
Kings (3-0) vs. Lakers (0-5)
7:00 p.m. PT, Oct. 14, 2021
Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA
TV: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Kent Bazemore
SF: LeBron James
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo, Joel Ayayi, Austin Reaves
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Tyrese Haliburton
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Maurice Harkless
C: Richaun Holmes
Key Reserves: Davion Mitchell, Terence Davis, Jahmius Ramsey, Alex Len, Chimezie Metu, Louis King