The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off of arguably their best performance of the season. With tons of controversy surrounding the team after the comments made about Luke Walton by LaVar Ball, the Lakers ran the Atlanta Hawks off the floor.
Now they look to build off that performance and climb out of the Western Conference cellar by picking up a win over the Sacramento Kings. The Kings have lost four of their last five and are on the second night of a back-to-back, blowing a big second half lead to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.
In theory, that would make this a very winnable game for the Lakers, but nothing is guaranteed with this team. The biggest changes for them on Sunday were twofold: they were locked in and active on defense, and they moved the ball on offense.
They created 15 Hawks turnovers, allowing them to get out on the break, finishing with 42 fast-break points, the most they’ve had since 2001. Additionally, the Lakers had 32 assists on their 48 made baskets, which shows that there wasn’t just a bunch of isolation on offense.
Brandon Ingram seems to be getting back to his aggressive self from earlier in the season, posting back-to-back 20 point games. A matchup against the Kings is ideal for him to keep that going as guys like Malachi Richardson, Buddy Hield, and Bogdan Bogdanovic aren’t much defensively.
One potential deterrent, however, could be Willie Cauley-Stein, who is emerging as one of the Kings’ best players. He alters a lot of shots at the rim with his length and athleticism, but that has always been his calling card. Lately he has been showing improvements on the offensive side and is averaging 15.8 points over the last five games.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers match up with him and veteran Zach Randolph. Brook Lopez was excellent defensively on Sunday, so his rim protection will be key and Julius Randle has proven to be a good defender when he is focused. Randle’s ability to switch out onto guards will also be tested with the speedy De’Aaron Fox likely to try and take advantage of switches.
Fox going against Lonzo Ball will obviously be something to watch. Lonzo is still rounding into form since returning from his shoulder injury, but his shooting has been much better over the last month and the Lakers’ offense clearly operates better when he is on the floor.
The Lakers will need to be careful with the Kings’ 3-point shooting. Though they don’t attempt as many as most teams, they hit them at an extremely high rate. In particular Buddy Hield, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and George Hill (should he play) are all extremely dangerous from beyond the arc.
If the Lakers are going to win the deep battle they are going to need Kyle Kuzma, Jordan Clarkson, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to step up. All three have been extremely up-and-down recently, but they are the Lakers’ best shooters and their ability to hit open shots will be key to the Lakers success.
Three Keys To Lakers Victory
Dominate the Boards: The Kings are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA, but in the last meeting they killed the Lakers on the glass. The Lakers must keep bodies on Cauley-Stein, Randolph, and Skal Labissiere to ensure the Kings don’t get extra opportunities.
Win the 3-Point Battle: The Lakers will take more threes, but that doesn’t mean they will make more as the Kings are third in 3-point percentage. The Lakers are coming off one of their best shooting games, hitting 16 from deep against Atlanta. They have to keep that up.
Don’t Get Too Happy: After finally ending a losing streak, it could be easy for the Lakers to exhale, but that is the worst thing they could possibly do. L.A. must remain locked in on defense, get out in transition, and keep up the ball movement in order to come out with a win and build on Sunday’s performance.
Los Angeles Lakers (12-27) Vs. Sacramento Kings (13-26)
7:30 P.M., PST, January 9, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Larry Nance Jr.
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Buddy Hield
SF: Malachi Richardson
PF: Zach Randolph
C: Willie Cauley-Stein
Key Reserves: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Garrett Temple, Skal Labissiere, Vince Carter, Kosta Koufos
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