The Lakers are in the state capitol to battle the Sacramento Kings. Both teams are seeking their first win of the year, after losing to the T-Wolves and Clippers respectively. The top two picks in the NBA Draft (Karl Anthony – Towns and D’Angelo Russell) squared off in their regular-season debuts for the first time in the 50-year common draft era. Kobe Bryant dropped 24 points on the T-Wolves in the first game of his 20th season, while breaking Utah Jazz guard John Stockton’s NBA record for most seasons with one team. Kevin Garnett is also in his 20th season, ironically both Garnett and Bryant played alongside their current coaches, Sam Mitchell and Byron Scott.
In a tale of two halves, the Lakers came out on fire in the first half, outscoring the T-Wolves 61-51; then the tables turned in the second half, and the purple and gold outscored by the same exact point total. The Lakers were competitive from start to finish, although it was their defense that allowed the T-Wolves to rally from a 16-point deficit and secure a one point road win. The T-Wolves aided immensely by Ricky Rubio’s career-best 28 points, 14 assist night, but it is impossible to not state the obvious, Flip Saunders helped coach Minnesota to the victory. The Sacramento Kings have a lot in common with the current state of the Lakers.
Both teams brought in big men to help improve their defense. The Lakers signed Roy Hibbert, who made the fourth-biggest impact on opponent field goal percentage last year at -5.9 percent. Sacramento drafted Willie Cauly-Stein with the sixth pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, who led the entire NCAA in defensive win shares at 3.4 while at the University of Kentucky. The Kings have a franchise player in Demarcus Cousins, one of the best big men in the NBA, a Head Coach in George Karl that knows how to win. Sacramento used part of the off-season investing in a lot of talent.
Kobe Bryant is two baskets away from passing former teammate Shaquille O’Neal on the NBA’s list for made shots. Bryant is currently at 11, 329 baskets. In conclusion, before the end of the first quarter, Kobe will pass O’Neal for fifth place behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. The NBA is a game of adjustments; the Lakers changes begin with getting D’Angelo Russell more involved in the offense as the primary ball handler, freeing Jordan Clarkson to attack more at the shooting guard position and continuing to improve on defense.
Tonight’s contest could be a shootout, due to the Lakers surrendering on average 105.3 points per game last year, the Kings were slightly better at 105 points. The Kings have a three-game winning streak against the purple and gold, including back-to-back victories to close out the 2014-2015 season. The Lakers will look to avenge the 122-99 loss at the Staples Center in last year’s finale.
Demarcus Cousins will put on full display something rarely seen in today’s small ball NBA – a big man dominating in the painted area. Demarcus Cousins also averaging the fifth-most points (24.1), third-most rebounds (12.7) in the NBA. Furthermore, no player scored more in the paint (12.5) than Cousins. Two key matchups for the purple and gold; Roy Hibbert in the paint versus Demarcus Cousins and the speed and quickness of Julius Randle against Willie Cauly-Stein. The Lakers will start with Roy Hibbert defending Demarcus Cousins one-on-one and sending help if needed. Tonight’s game plan; on defense – do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, keep the ball out of the painted area, get back in transition and rotate out to open shooters. Offensively, the Lakers need excellent ball movement and player movement to find the open man and shoot higher percentage shots and not cast up 35 three point shots.
Lakers: D. Russell, J. Clarkson, K. Bryant, J. Randle, R. Hibbert
Kings: R. Rondo, B. McClemore, R. Gay, W. Cauly-Stein, D. Cousins
Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST
• Los Angeles: TWC Sportsnet (Bill MacDonald & Stu Lantz)
• Sacramento: Comcast Sportsnet – CA (Grant Napear & Jerry Reynolds)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
• Sacramento : KHTK Sports 1140 AM (Gary Gerould & Lafayette Lever)
• Kobe Bryant (Lower Leg Contusion) Day-to-Day
• Marcelo Huertas (Hamstring) Day–to-Day
• Jordan Clarkson (Shoulder) Day-to-Day