Lakers vs. Kings Preview: Battle Of The Worst In West
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Back in the early 2000s, the Lakers and Kings were bitter division rivals who were competing for Western Conference supremacy. Flash forward to current day: the Lakers and Kings sit at the bottom of the West and they’re ‘competing’ to see who will have a better lottery chance in the 2014 draft. The fortunes of both teams sure have changed in the past decade or so.

Tonight the Lakers actually have a legitimate shot at winning, but it remains to be seen if they can string together the offense and defense needed to earn a win. Perhaps the Laker will only need to explode on offense since the Kings defense is infamously poor. Without further adieu, let’s jump into the analysis of tonight’s match-up.

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Frontcourt: DeMarcus Cousins is the King’s premier franchise player as long as he can stay on the court. He was ejected from the Rockets game for haranguing officials en route to two technical fouls. He has 15 technical fouls so far this season which means if he picks up one more he’ll be suspended for a game. On the court Cousins is averaging 22.3 points and 11.5 rebounds and is an absolute force in the paint. Gasol will have his hands full defending him and it’ll be imperative for Coach D’Antoni to insert Kaman for stretches of the game to relieve Gasol.

Since being traded to the Kings in December, Rudy Gay has seemingly turned away from his shot chucking ways. He’s been the epitome of efficiency on the Kings thus far and averages 20.5 points on 49.8% shooting. Gay is a scoring forward who has been absolutely living in the paint since joining the Kings. He’s converting on 58% of his attempts from five feet and closer. He can create his own shot and thrives in isolation plays.

Backcourt: Isaiah Thomas has blossomed in his third year in the league. After the Kings traded Vasquez, Thomas fully transitioned into the starting point guard role. He’s averaging 20.4 points and 6.4 assists per game. He scores mostly by penetrating and getting to the rim. He’s also a the King’s best three point shooter with 1.9 threes per game on 37.2% shooting. Rookie Ben McLemore has recently been inserted into the Kings starting line-up after Marcus Thorton was traded. McLeMore has struggled shooting the ball this year and has not proven to be a three-point shooting threat like he was in college.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Exploit The Kings Horrendous Defense: The Kings allow their opponents to shoot 37.5% from three-point land and the Lakers will need to exploit this deficiency. The Lakers are a strong three-point shooting team and if they keep playing small ball they will be forced to live and die by the three. The bottom line is the Kings aren’t a great defensive team so the Lakers will need to run, swing the ball and find the open man.

Defensive Match-ups: Lately Coach Mike D’Antoni has opted for a small ball line-up, sacrificing rim protection and post defense. If D’Antoni continues with the small Lakers line-up of Kent Bazemore at the three and Wes Johnson at the four there will be some significant match-up issues tonight. Gay who stands at 6’8’’ will be a match-up nightmare for the undersized Bazemore. Additionally, Gasol will probably tire quickly if he’s forced to bang bodies with DeMarcus Cousins all night. I hope D’Antoni plays Kaman and Hill significantly more minutes to make up for glaring match-up issues. Clearly the small ball line-ups aren’t working as the Lakers are on a three game losing streak.

Sacramento Kings (20-37) at Los Angeles Lakers (19-39)
7:30 PM PST, February 28, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Kings Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins

Key Reserves: PF Derrick Williams, PG: Ray McCallum, PF: Reggie Evans

Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Wesley Johnson
C: Pau Gasol

VIDEO: Kent Bazemore Surprised With Big Role

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