Despite getting 31 points from Kobe Bryant, including 23 alone in the third quarter, the Lakers suffered a 34-point blowout at the hands of the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night. It was perhaps the worst performance for the Lakers thus far in their winless preseason. The Lakers will continue to be without Dwight Howard, and were without Pau Gasol last game as coach Mike Brown decided to rest him. Steve Nash was limited to 12 minutes as well.
The opponent in preseason game number five is the Sacramento Kings. It seems ages ago that the Kings were the Lakers top nemesis in the Western Conference, as the Kings have not made the playoffs since the 2006 season. They also finished second to last in the Western Conference during the 2011-2012 season. With high draft picks the last several seasons, the Kings have stockpiled talented players such as former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans as well as DeMarcus Cousins. This past June, they took University of Kansas’ Thomas Robinson with the fifth overall pick.
Frontcourt: DeMarcus Cousins is the most intriguing piece on the entire Kings roster and is the key down low for this team. Entering his third year, this is a crucial season for Cousins to take a leap and change his public perception as an immature player. Cousins was statistically very good this past season, averaging 18.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. However, his 44 percent field goal percentage is subpar for a post player and demonstrates that he still is a raw talent.
Rookie Thomas Robinson is the other key to the frontcourt. He has been coming off the bench during the preseason, but he will be an important part of the team’s future. Robinson is a bit undersized for the power forward position, but his relentless energy makes him an elite rebounder and effective around the rim. Jason Thompson, a solid fifth year player out of Rider University, has been starting for the team this preseason. Coach Keith Smart is still experimenting with the starter at the small forward position.
Backcourt: Tyreke Evans, a fourth year pro, is to the Kings backcourt what Cousins is to the frontcourt. A former Rookie of the Year that saw him average 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists during that season, Evans has regressed significantly in his past two seasons. Evans is very ball dominant and it has been difficult for him to find a position in the NBA game. Once a point guard, new coach Keith Smart has been working on finding a niche for Evans as either a shooting guard or small forward.
New acquisition Aaron Brooks, the NBA 2010 Most Improved Player, is a key addition after spending last season in China. He will likely start at the point guard position and be backed up by Isaiah Thomas, a second year pro who had an impressive rookie campaign as a second round pick.
Keys to Victory:
Continue to Work on Offensive Execution- The Lakers must continue to explore all the options in their new-look Princeton offense. While Kobe’s 23 points in the third quarter on Wednesday night were exciting, it did not do much to help the team work through their offensive sets. The Lakers have yet to break the 90-point barrier in any of their preseason games and must be able to strike a balance between pounding the ball inside to Gasol (and eventually Dwight Howard) and attacking with Nash and Bryant from the wing.
Establish Antawn Jamison- Kobe recently stated he believes Antawn Jamison could be the leader of the Lakers’ second unit. Jamison has struggled mightily this preseason, and is coming off a 2-11 performance against the Jazz. A career 20-point per game scorer, it is key that Jamison provides punch to a Laker bench that was last in the league in points per game. The other key addition to the Laker bench, Jodie Meeks, finally got on-track last game by hitting four three pointers. It is now Jamison’s turn.
Sacramento Kings (2-1) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (0-4)
7:00 PM PST, October 19, 2012 , Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, NV
CA TV: TWC Sports Network
Kings Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Aaron Brooks SG: Tyreke Evans SF: Travis Outlaw PF: Jason Thompson C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: G Isaiah Thomas, F Thomas Robinson, G Marcus Thornton
In case you missed it: Kobe talks A-Rod, growing up in a family of “a-holes.”
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