The Kings roll into Staples Center at the most perfect of times. It's not often the Lakers are facing a five-game losing streak. It hasn't happened since Smush and Kwame tortured us, and thank God they're gone The Kings? They're usually stuck in some kind of losing streak. This time, Sacramento comes to town on an 11-of-12 games slide of their own. As bad as it may seem in Lakerland this week, there's always the Kings around to make us feel much better about things.
Something has to give tonight. No way the Lakers should lose their fifth straight game to the lowly Kings. Nothing is ever easy though. Especially with the way the Lakers have been playing. Although we should expect a win against this team, they always seem to give the Lakers a pretty good go a couple times a season. Tonight's game is one of those that LA's recent issues can't let the Kings stick around in the game. And possibly lose or have a close game with an even worse slumping team. Then we might get able to get just a little worried.
Ryen Russillo of ESPN's NBA Today podcast is always stating that youth cannot win in the NBA. The Kings are the shining example of that. They aren't in the bottom five youngest teams in the NBA in terms of average age, but they are third-youngest in terms of experience, with an average tenure of 2.9 years of service in the NBA. It seems the case just about every season. Hence, the reason they always suck. Looking at the roster, you see nice individual talent, like Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson or Omri Casspi, but it's not translating into team success.
They seem to be regressing since last season. Since starting out 3-1, they've dropped 11 of the past 12 games. They don't know how to translate talent and "raised" expectations into real improvement. So they stay young and stay inexperienced, and stay at the bottom of the standings. The only thing they're getting better at is knowing how to lose.
You never know with these Lakers-Kings games, though. You think the Lakers should smash them, the game is tight. You think they might have a competitive game, the Lakers pound them. Sometimes, like the 112-100 loss the Lakers handed the Kings on November 3rd, you get both. The Lakers dominated most of the game, before a late rally by Sacramento was quelled by President Fisher.
One of the main issues going on with the Lakers right now is their lack of interior defense and defensive rebounding. While they remain in the 3rd NBA in defensive rebounds and 2nd in overall rebounds, Sacramento has the type of interior presence that tends to give Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom some trouble. Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert and Carl Landry are all bigs who either have the length or hustle that frustrate Pau and Lamar. The Kings are 5th in the NBA in total rebounding, but rank 2nd in offensive rebounds. The Lakers can't afford to slack on the boards at all against this team or they will find this game much closer than it should be. Sacto can and will crash the glass for second chance opportunities.
Here's the kicker though: the Kings probably have such a high rank in offensive rebounds because they are terrible on offense. They rank 2nd to last in points per game with 94.3; 27th in field goal percentage at 43.4%; and dead last in three point percentage at a paltry 30.1%. The Kings have tons of opportunities to rebound their own misses. This is also a great chance for the Lakers to get back on track on the defensive boards.
Want more good news? They have no one to cover Kobe. Don't listen to any reports stating Luther Head did a good job on Kobe last game. Kobe was masterful while notching a triple double in a semi-blowout. As tired as Pau may be right now, the Kings bigs can't defend him any better than their guards can with Kobe. DeMarcus Cousins has lost his starting spot because he fouls too much. Jason Thompson doesn't play defense, and Samuel Dalembert is more of a help defender. Carl Landry? No shot.
I would focus a little more on what their guys can do, but let's face it - it's not much. Beno Udrih might make Fish look a little silly; DeMarcus may get a few early buckets on Pau; and Carl Landry will out hustle Lamar on a few offensive rebounds, and Tyreke Evans could have quite a few trips to the basket. That's as good as it should get. The Kings can't shoot, score, or defend. The one thing they can do well is also a result of the fact that they can't do anything else but rebound their own misses. The Lakers are much better than this team. I don't care what they can do well. None of it should matter. For a team as good as Los Angeles, looking to stop a a losing streak at four against a team as bad as Sacramento, the Lakers better win tonight. Simple as that.