Showtime: 7:00pm PT
Plot: Can the L.A. Lakers sweep the season series with the Sacramento Kings?
With just eight games remaining the regular season, there isn't a whole lot to play for these days. Playoffs were out of the question a few weeks into the season and random, unexpected wins throughout the season have shown the team can't always "tank" properly. Either way, this season has been one more about isolated moments rather than end-of-game results. After a futile but exciting 40-point performance against the Portland Trail Blazers, Nick Young leads the Los Angeles Lakers up to Sacramento in a matchup that features two of the three worst teams in the Western Conference. The Lakers can either ball out and sweep the season series with the Kings, or take the L to improve draft lottery chances.
As of April 2, AccuScore projects the Lakers and Kings to finish with 27 and 29 wins, respectively. The Utah Jazz are projected to finish with 25-26 wins. On a macro level, playing hard and getting the loss up in Sacramento would be the more intelligent move. A Lakers win would help move the Kings up from seventh to sixth in the draft lottery rankings. Sacramento's remaining opponents, however, are all above .500. There's plenty of hope to stay ahead of the Kings in draft lottery rankings even if the Lakers win on the road tonight.
Sacramento is in the bottom third of the league in defending the three-point line, giving up 24.2 percent of opponents' total points from beyond the arc. Sacramento gives up about 25 points per game from the three-point line while the Lakers average 28.1 points per game from the three-pointers. When these two sides last met, the Lakers went 19-27 from beyond in the arc in the 126-122 victory in front of a capacity crowd at Staples Center.
Anyone who has seen the Kings play know they have very little discipline on the defensive end. The Lakers may not play defense, but the Kings do something even more frustrating - they play defense by fouling. Sacramento is No. 27 in the league in team personal fouls per possession. They are No. 29 in the league in team personal fouls per game, committing about 23 per contest. The Lakers are No. 6 and No. 12 in the same categories, respectively. Whether it's from the three-point line or attacking the basket, the Lakers should have no trouble putting up points against an out-of-control Sacramento defense.
Due to a suspension he was serving for hitting Patrick Beverley, DeMarcus Cousins was unavailable the last time the Lakers and Kings met. With Pau still recovering from vertigo, having to guard Boogie on the second night of a back-to-back won't be easy. Expect Cousins to have a big 20-10 performance, especially since Isaiah Thomas (quad) is again questionable tonight. Thomas has missed the last four games with a right quad contusion.
The Kings want to avoid the season sweep at the hands of their old Western Conference rivals, and know they have plenty of opportunities to lose with games against the Warriors, Trail Blazers, Thunder and Clippers coming up. While I expect the Lakers to keep things competitive through three quarters, the roster just doesn't have the firepower to win this game on the second night of a back-to-back. Stranger things have happened this season and team's tendency to frustrate its fans - with a win or a loss - shouldn't be underestimated.