The Los Angeles Lakers’ egregious preseason will finally conclude on Friday night when they face off against the long-time upstate rival Sacramento Kings. At (3-4) the Lakers have been very inconsistent, as they continue their quest to develop a true identity. Luckily, Byron Scott has one night of exhibition remaining to iron out any final kinks, solidify the rotation and give the young guys additional minutes to further evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Subsequently, the Lakers will be given a few days off before kicking off the regular season on Tuesday night vs. the Houston Rockets.
Frontcourt: At center, the Kings boast an extremely talented and vocal DeMarcus Cousins who has emerged as one of the marquee big-men in the game today. Playing in such a small market, the average fan tends to overlook the sheer dominance Cousins has displayed in recent years, particularly last season when he averaged career highs of 22.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Renowned for his killer offensive game, the former Kentucky Wildcat tends to drift in and out of games defensively, partially due to his unpredictable temper. The key to controlling Cousins is limiting his offensive production. If successful, his production will take a nosedive and we can expect at least one free throw via a technical foul.
Jason Thompson has yet to live up to a lottery pick’s expectation, but still remains a very talented power forward who’s game is magnified in the paint and on the defensive end. A near 7-footer, Thompson excels on the glass grabbing seven rebounds per game in 26.9 minutes for his career. Also be on the lookout for the Kings’ sparkplug off the bench, Carl Landry who is coming off an injury-ridden 2013-14 campaign. Landry is finally beginning to resemble his old self again putting together two consecutive very impressive preseason games.
Backcourt: Sacramento’s backcourt took a serious hit this offseason, losing the electrifying Isaiah Thomas to the Phoenix Suns in free agency, so they attempted to rectify the loss by signing Darren Collison. Well, he may not be the Laker-killer that Thomas has proven to be, but Collison is a viable replacement considering how insanely quick he is. Critics often question Collison’s ability to run the point, though, as he has never exhibited jaw dropping passing skills, so he should be a fairly easy matchup for the defensive minds of Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson. The Kings also brought in former Laker Ramon Sessions to backup Collison.
At shooting guard, Ben McLemore is expected to receive the majority of the starter’s minutes, but will have to emulate the offensive versatility he conveyed during his days at Kansas. McLemore’s primary job is to provide much needed spacing to a Kings team that ranked near the bottom in efficiency last season.
Arguably Sacramento’s most talented scorer, Rudy Gay mans the small forward position and has appeared to fit comfortably in with this Kings team. After being traded mid-season from Toronto, Gay evolved from an inefficient volume shooter to a deadly threat both in the post and mid-range that he was with the Memphis Grizzlies a few years ago. Post-trade he averaged 20 points per game in Sacramento converting an efficient 48 percent of his shots.
Things to Watch For:
The Julius Randle and Ed Davis Duo: Lakers’ management presented Byron Scott with quite the challenge to assemble a competent defensive duo to man the team’s frontcourt. With six viable options to play the power forward and center positions, Scott has discovered an imposing dual-threat of Ed Davis and rookie Julius Randle who seem to complement each other better than any other pair thus far. Expect Scott to continue to play these two together, and potentially name them starters later on in the season.
Interior Defense: Similar to last season, the Lakers have been atrocious in defending the paint, despite Scott’s emphasis on the defensive end. Ed Davis has undoubtedly been the team’s best interior defender, however beyond him nobody else has stood out. If Los Angeles plans on having any chance in defeating the Kings, players like Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill must step up and contain Cousins.
Wayne Ellington and Ronnie Price’s Play: Although Wayne Ellington and Ronnie Price are the odds-on favorites to secure the Lakers’ final two roster spots, it is not beyond question that they have done so just yet. As both players are forecasted to receive inflated minutes in the final preseason game, expect them to be on a mission to verify their worth to this organization.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are four-point underdogs against the Kings via Sportsbook.ag.
Sacramento Kings (2-4) @ Los Angeles Lakers (3-4)
7:00 PM PST, October 24, 2014
MGM Grand Garden Arena Las Vegas, NV
TV: TWC SN / TWC D
Radio: 710 AM ESPN (English) / 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES (Spanish)
Kings Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: PG: Ramon Sessions PF: Carl Landry PF: Derrick Williams
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
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