The Los Angeles Lakers faced their toughest test so far this preseason when they hosted the Portland Trailblazers on Tuesday.
While Portland ultimately won the game 109-106, Los Angeles proved that it belongs as they hung with last year’s fifth seed in the Western Conference for four quarters.
The Lakers had a very balanced scoring attack on Tuesday as guard Jordan Clarkson led the team with 15 points off the bench of 6-of-14 shooting. Five other Lakers, Nick Young (14), Julius Randle (13), D’Angelo Russell (12), Timofey Mozgov (11) and Marcelo Huertas (11) all finished the game in double figures.
Los Angeles now travels outside of the state of California for the first time as they are hosting the Sacramento Kings at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday night.
For the fifth consecutive game Lakers first year head coach Luke Walton has decided to bring guard Jordan Clarkson off the bench, although he is among the team’s leaders in minutes so far. He is also the team’s third leading scorer at 13.5 points per game through the first four games.
The only two Lakers who have scored more than him are their two starting guards, D’Angelo Russell (17.5) and Lou Williams (13.8).
Sacramento features a young backcourt of Darren Collison and Ben McLemore. They also have Aaron Afflalo who has started and came off the bench so far this preseason. McLemore ranks third on the team at 11.7 points per game this preseason and Afflalo ranks fourth at 8.7.
Since Collison is the only true ball handler of the bunch, the Kings signed Ty Lawson this past offseason to back him up and most likely start in his place as Collison is suspended eight games to begin the season due to a domestic violence arrest.
Sacramento also signed former Lakers point guard Jordan Farmar to add to their backcourt depth. Farmar, Collison and Afflalo all played their college basketball in Los Angeles at UCLA.
The Lakers will have their hands full with the Kings frontcourt as it features the best center in the NBA, Demarcus Cousins. Last season, the 26-year-old Alabama native averaged a career-high 26.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.
Alongside Cousins will be the sixth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Willie Cauley-Stein. The 7’0″ power forward provided a defensive presence, although he just saw 21.4 minutes per game during his rookie campaign. In 66 games played, he averaged seven points, 5.3 rebounds and one block per game.
Along with veterans Kosta Koufos, Matt Barnes and Omri Casspi, the Kings have rookie big men George Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere fighting for minutes off the bench as Rudy Gay is a lock to start at small forward unless he gets traded.
The Lakers have struggled to rebound through their first four games, something they will continue to work on this preseason. Forwards Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr., as well as center Tarik Black are all undersized for their positions so they will have a tall task, no pun intended, against the big front line of the Kings.
Keys To Victory:
Crash the boards: The Lakers were outrebounded in three of their first four games. The only team they outrebounded were the Kings, 52-38, which helped lead to a 103-84 victory in their first meeting.
Three-point shooting: The Lakers made just eight of their 28 three point attempts in Tuesday’s loss to the Trail Blazers. They were also the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA last year, so if they want to improve this season guys like Brandon Ingram, Nick Young and Clarkson will need to knock down shots from long range.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-2) vs. Sacramento Kings (1-2)
7:30 PM PST, October 13, 2016
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN/ 1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Willie Cauley-Stein
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: Kosta Koufos, Matt Barnes, Ty Lawson, Jordan Farmar
Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Julius Randle
C: Timofey Mozgov
Key Reserves: Larry Nance Jr., Brandon Ingram, Lou Williams, Marcelo Huertas, Tarik Black