The Lakers are back home on Friday, where they will return after a five-game road trip to host their fellow Pacific division residents, the Sacramento Kings. L.A. will have to be prepared for a Sacramento team that’s coming off a thrilling victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, and a roster that’s eager to restart their season after recently firing former Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
The Kings might not have a single All-Star on their roster, but they still can score with the best teams in the NBA. They have the 10th best offensive rating in the league (scoring 109.3 per 100 possessions) led by De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, (future Laker) Buddy Hield, and young guards Tyrese Haliburton and Davion Mitchell. Sacramento hasn’t shot the ball particularly well from downtown, but they find ways to get to the free-throw line a lot and score from different angles all around the court.
And with Alvin Gentry now leading the Kings, the team has played with faster pace in their past two games, which is actually perfect for Fox’s style of play. The current interim coach has also already tested out the Kings’ first three-guard lineup, and has already made more in-game adjustments (like actually playing Damian Jones and Marvin Bagley III more) than Walton has in his tenure with the team, according to our friends over at Sactown Royalty.
It would be wise for the Lakers to note Gentry’s new tweaks to this team ahead of Friday’s game.
So the Kings finally discovered they have Damian Jones on the roster.— Cranjis McBasketball (@Tim_NBA) November 25, 2021
He’s played his top 2 minute games this season over the past 3 Kings games. https://t.co/YJsZzAeT6B
But as good as they are on offense, the Kings’ are in even more elite company... in how impressively bad they are on defense. They’re ranked in the bottom four in the league in defensive rating (allowing 110.9 per 100 possessions, essentially turning every opponent into the Phoenix Suns) and a big reason why is because of their lack of size and execution on that end of the floor.
So, it’s safe to say that this game will likely boil down to which between the two mediocre defenses shows up and performs better, as the Lakers themselves also haven’t exactly excelled on that side of the floor this season.
For the purple and gold to contain Sacramento’s strong and versatile offense, they’ll have to make sure their penetration, point-of-attack and help defense are sharp enough because as mentioned above, the Kings score aggressively in a variety of ways. The Lakers will also have to polish their pick-and-roll defense (something they haven’t done well enough this season) because the Kings are ranked second in the league in pick-and-roll frequency (23.7%) and successfully score from this play often (they’re ranked 40.5% in pick-and-roll scoring frequency) according to the league’s official statistics page.
Moreover, this game will also be the perfect time for Anthony Davis — if he’s back from his flu-like symptoms — to maximize his height and score inside instead of settling for jumpers, since the Kings’ frontcourt has no match for him. L.A. should put a ton of pressure on the rim while also hoping that Wayne Ellington, Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony shoot the lights out of Staples Center to keep pace with the Kings’ shooters.
And oh, the Lakers also might want to make sure they avoid a potential Hield revenge game. L.A. experienced the “you should’ve traded for me instead” type of game from Kyle Lowry last season and DeMar Derozan this season, so they have to do everything they can to make sure Hield (who’s currently ranked second in the league in 3-pointers made per game behind Steph Curry) struggles against them.
Otherwise, if the Kings do end up winning the game because of Hield, the Lakers won’t hear the end of why they should’ve traded for the sniper last offseason. This alone should motivate the purple and gold to play hard and smart, come out focused and determined on Friday. Hopefully the Lakers walk out of this game with a two-game winning streak, and with a sense of validation that they indeed made the right move of trading for Russell Westbrook over Hield this offseason.
Notes and Updates
- Trevor Ariza (right ankle injury recovery), Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) are still out tomorrow. Lakers’ two-way contract players Chaundee Brown Jr. and Jay Huff will be on G League duty.
- The good news for the Lakers is that rookie Austin Reaves (left hamstring strain) is now listed as questionable after not playing in weeks.
- LeBron James (rectus abdominis strain) is also listed as questionable.
- Additionally, Anthony Davis is no longer on the injury report.
- Sacramento’s Harrison Barnes hurt his right foot vs. the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday and is listed as questionable for tomorrow’s game. Richaun Holmes (right eye contusion) is also questionable.
The Lakers and Kings will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. PST on Friday. The game will be televised on Spectrum SportsNet.
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