Sacramento Kings (12-23) at Los Angeles Lakers (21-14)
7:30 PM PST, March 2, 2012
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Kings Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Tyreke Evans
SF: Marcus Thornton
PF: Jason Thompson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: G/F Francisco Garcia, G/F John Salmons
The Lakers and Kings used to have a heated rivalry back in the late 90s/early 2000s. Ever since Robert Horry hit that cold-blooded buzzer beater in the 2002 playoffs against the Kings, the Sac-town franchise just hasn’t been the same. The Lakers have remained successful, but the Kings have been relegated to a rebuilding phase and even debated moving away from Sacramento last season.
The Lakers are coming off a strong home win in which a masked Kobe Bryant went off for 31 points. Hopefully the Lakers exhibit that same focus and energy tonight. If they play like they did on Wednesday night, they should be able to come away with a win against the inexperienced and undersized Kings.
Frontcourt: In his sophomore season, Cousins is averaging 16.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. He’s got a big body and is a load to deal with in the painted area. While Cousins may possess the physical attributes that make a successful post player, he needs to improve his shot selection, step up his defense and cut down on fouls. At the four, Thompson is a lengthy player who can rebound decently. He isn’t a consistent source of offense, but he occasionally put up double digit points. The Kings have opted to go small lately and relegated J.J. Hickson to the bench. Chuck Hayes plays backup center, but he’s severely undersized (6 foot, 6 inches) for the position.
Backcourt: The Kings are playing with a small lineup. Standing at 6 foot, 4 inches, Marcus Thornton starts at the three which isn’t his natural position. Thornton is more of a two guard, but has flourished at the three – he’s scored 20 points or more in five straight games. At the two, Evans is the tallest player in the backcourt and main facilitator of the offense. Evans has a big body for a guard and is a great finisher at the rim. Isaiah Thomas is 5 foot, 9 inches and is one of the smallest guards currently playing in the league. Since being inserted into the starting lineup, he’s flourished and shown that he can hit the trey, drive and dish.
Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Size Wins – Simply put, the Lakers have too much size for the Kings to handle. Across all positions except shooting guard (where Tyreke physically matches up with Kobe), the Lakers have a significant size advantage. With this size advantage, the Lakers should have an easier time executing their offense. Bynum and Gasol should both finish with around 20 points each.
Tough Defense – The Lakers are one of the best defensive teams in the league. On the other hand, the Kings are shooting a league worst 41.1% from the field. A big reason for this is because the Kings rely on their retinue of small guards to score from outside the painted area. Only cousins consistently scores in the paint. If the Lakers put on the clamps early, this game could be a blow out and the starters may enjoy the fourth quarter from the bench.