As the Los Angeles Lakers (5-6) have been heavily criticized, the Sacramento Kings (6-5) have been praised for their start to the 2018-19 NBA season.
While the two teams have significantly different expectations, the Lakers are looking to win four out of their last five games when they travel to Sacramento.
In a battle between two of the fastest-paced teams, head coach Luke Walton preached transition defense more than ever following practice.
“They’re fast. They’re really fast. We have to do a helluva job on our transition defense,” Walton said. “We did a nice job against Minnesota but this team is taking it to a whole ‘nother level.
“That will be our priority, is getting back. They have shooters, Fox is pushing the ball. When you make mistakes, they’re making you pay. They’re a good, young team that’s playing fast, and we have to be ready to be disciplined to go on the road and get a win.”
While the Lakers still want to play fast, Walton believes they need to choose their spots wisely against the Kings. “We will still play fast but I’ll tell our guys to pick and choose; be smart about it. Which is what we want to do anyway,” he explained.
“We feel like we’re good at playing fast because we’ve got a lot of ball-handlers, decision-makers, and it’s a way to keep the ball in a lot of different guy’s hands. But if there’s nothing there, we don’t want quick shots. We don’t want to play old Phoenix Suns fast, where it’s seven seconds or less. We want to attack the rim, and if there’s nothing there, pull it back let’s move and execute a little bit.”
When the Lakers initially constructed the team, a major concern was spacing the floor for LeBron James and the young core. However, they are in the top-10 in offensive rating (111.0), highlighted by leading the league in points in the paint (60.4) and fastbreak points (23.5).
As Walton has found a way to maximize his players’ strengths offensively, all of the attention is on defense now. After being in the top-10 in defensive rating for much of the 2017-18 season before injuries, the Lakers are currently 23rd (111.3) this season.
With the Lakers playing well defensively in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Timberwolves, they will be tested against the Kings.