The Lakers are reeling from a nail-biting loss to the Thunder – the team collapsed down the stretch and Kobe tried to take over, but ultimately came up short. Meanwhile the Kings owner made a rash decision to fire head coach Mike Malone after a relatively successful start to the season. New owner, Ranadive, seems to be irrationally confident that the team can do better. They’re losers of four straight and surely the team is feeling the strain that the front office is putting on the coaching staff. Ty Corbin has assumed interim head coaching duties and he doesn’t exactly have the best track record from his time with the Utah Jazz. The Lakers could upset the Kings tonight in Sacramento.
Frontcourt: DeMarcus Cousins has recently returned to the Kings starting lineup after sitting out a few weeks due to viral meningitis. Cousins has played like an All-Star this year and there are few centers in the league who look as good as him. He is averaging 23.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The Kings run their offense through Cousins and he will surely give the Lakers trouble tonight.
Rudy Gay is the Kings other superstar and he’s right behind Cousins in scoring with 21.1 points per game. Gay has developed his passing game this year and is averaging a career high 4.7 assists. He’s been consistently excellent for the Kings in pick-and-roll situations, drawing fouls when he tries to score or making smart passes. Gay is one of the few guys on the Kings roster who can create his own shot and loves to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
Backcourt: Starting shooting guard Ben McLemore has improved in his second year and is taking smarter, higher percentage shots. As a result his scoring has increased to 12 points per game on an efficient 47.7% from the field. McLemore has had a few 20 point games already and has proven that he’s very adept at attacking the rim in addition to shooting the three.
At point guard, Darren Collison is silently enjoying a stellar year. His stats of 15.6 points, 6.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds are all career highs. After bouncing around the league a bit, it seems that Collison has finally found a home in Sacramento. He’s a diminutive point guard who has great speed and can get in the paint with ease. The Lakers guards will need to make an effort to stay in front of him.
Keys to Victory:
Contain DeMarcus Cousins: Earlier this season the Lakers edged a Cousins-less Kings team by a score of 98 to 95. Cousins is back in the lineup tonight and he was a big part of the Kings early success this year. He’s a beast on the boards and nearly automatic when he gets deep in the paint. The Lakers don’t have a center with the size of Cousins so they may have to double teaming him when he gets the ball down low. If the Lakers hope to win tonight, they’ll have to contain Cousins to some extent.
Trust on Offense: There was string of games where it seemed as if Kobe was beginning to trust his teammates. In fact, Kobe had two consecutive games of double digit assists. The Lakers also won those two games. The offense functions better when Kobe is willing to pass out of double-teams rather than force up ill-advised fadeaways. Kobe’s trust in his teammates is very fickle and seems to vary on any given night. When the game starts to get out of hand, Kobe usually tries to take over and the results have not been positive. He’s been trying to do too much and his efficiency is at a career low as he’s only converting 37.7% of his shots.
Prevent Collison From Penetrating: Collison torched the Lakers for 26 points on 11 of 18 earlier this December. The Lakers guards weren’t able to stay in front of him and he nearly led the Kings to victory. Price and Lin need to focus on keeping Collison from penetrating the teeth of the Lakers defense and force him to take jump shots.
Los Angeles Lakers (8-18) at Sacramento Kings (11-15)
3:00 PM PST, December 21, 2014
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Kings Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Darren Collison
SG: Ben McLemore
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: F: Carl Landry PG: Ramon Sessions
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
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