By: Nathaniel Lastrapes
The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of their first win of the preseason, where they won by a sizable margin against Maccabi Haifa. The Lakers made their debut at Staples Center and did not fail to impress the home crowd, beating the team from Israel by a score of 126-83. The Lakers even led by 51 points at one junction of the game, but what was most impressive was the way they moved the ball on offense. D’Angelo Russell dazzled in his return from the injury to his glute, dishing out 11 assists in just 18 minutes. The Lakers will look to build upon this victory in Las Vegas, where they will take on the the Sacramento Kings at the MGM Grand Arena.
Frontcourt: The Lakers will be facing one of the league’s premiere big men in DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is a force to be reckoned with in the paint, but he also has the ability to knock down a mid-range jumper if he is left open. Cousins crashes the glass with ferocity and he is looking to establish himself as the most dominant center in the NBA. The Lakers will counter Cousins with their defensive specialist, Roy Hibbert. It is unlikely that Hibbert will completely shut Cousins down, but he certainly has the ability to make life difficult for the All-Star big man.
Another key threat for the Kings from the wing is swingman, Rudy Gay. Rudy Gay began his NBA career with promise of being a franchise player, but his development stopped somewhere along the way. However, Gay still remains a threat on the offensive end and can heat up at any given moment. The Lakers will have to keep an eye out for Gay on the wing.
The Kings are also hoping to develop their sixth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Willie Cauley-Stein. The Kings will look to pair up Cauley-Stein and Cousins in the frontcourt for years to come. If the pairing fares well for Sacramento, they could be one of the most dominant frontcourt duos since Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
Backcourt: The Kings backcourt lacks depth, but certainly does not lack talent. Rajon Rondo signed with the Kings as a free agent this summer, and he looks to put his troubled days in Boston and Dallas behind him. Rondo is hoping to revitalize his career in Sacramento and reinvent himself as a good teammate and a positive locker room presence. Rondo does not have a consistent jump shot, but he is one of the elite passing point guards in the NBA. That being said, the Lakers need to prevent penetration from Rondo, thus stopping him from creating openings on the defensive end.
Starting at shooting guard for the Kings is Ben McLemore, who is beginning his third campaign in the league. McLemore has not panned out to be a star player, but he still does a lot of things well on the court. He has the ability to heat up quick and can get up and down the court with the best of them.
Another guard who tends to be a Laker killer is Darren Collison. Collison grew up in the Inland Empire; not too far from Los Angeles. Collison went from the high school basketball powerhouse, Etiwanda High School, to UCLA where he played point guard next to Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. Collison always shows out for his close family and friends when he plays the Lakers, so he is always liable to be a threat no matter what team he plays for.
Keys to Victory:
Limit Turnovers: In their rout over Maccabi Haifa, the Lakers did not take very good care of the basketball, committing 22 turnovers. Coach Byron Scott would like to see that number drop significantly as the regular season approaches. Even though the Lakers got the win, there was plenty to be critical about when it came to taking care of the basketball.
Stay Out of Foul Trouble: It is crucial that Roy Hibbert plays great position defense against DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins likes to bang in the post, so it is important for Hibbert not to back down from his physicality. Hibbert must match Cousins’ aggression in the paint, but be careful to avoid silly fouls. If Hibbert can make things difficult for Cousins, the Lakers have a great shot at winning this ball game.
Take Quality Shots: In Sunday night’s exhibition against Maccabi Haifa, the Lakers shot exceptionally well from the field. The team moved the ball well on offense and did not settle for bad shots. Los Angeles shot 54 percent from the field and an incredible 54 percent from three-point territory on 14-26 shooting. If the Lakers can shoot this well during the regular season, as well as limiting their turnovers, they will be a hard team to beat.
Sacramento Kings (3-1) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (1-3)
7:00 PM PST, October 13, 2015
MGM Grand Arena, Las Vegas, NV
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Kings Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Omri Casspi
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: PG: Darren Collison, C: Willie Cauley-Stein, SF: Caron Butler
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Anthony Brown
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert