Kings Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Tyreke Evans
SG: Marcus Thornton
SF: John Salmons
PF: J.J. Hickson
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Key Reserves: G Jimmer Fredette, F Francisco Garcia, C Jason Thompson
After yesterday’s let-down, the Lakers immediately hit the road to visit Sac-Town for a rendezvous with the Kings. This Kings squad is easily the best since they last made the playoffs in 2006. Head coach Paul Westphal returns for his third season with much hope for success in 2011.
Frontcourt: Last season, the Kings averaged 43.9 rebounds/per game; thanks in big part to the tandem of Cousins, Thompson, and the recently-departed Samuel Dalembert. Don’t expect the Kings to miss Dalembert too much though, as they replaced him with J.J. Hickson, who leaves the Cavaliers after three seasons. Hickson matches Dalembert’s rebound totals well, but lacks the defensive presence that Dalembert was; blocking just 0.7 shots per game, compared to the nearly 1.5 rejections by his predecessor. The Kings have seven forwards to rotate; each with a different style.
Backcourt: Tyreke Evans comes into his third season looking to better a slightly disappointing campaign in 2011 that saw his shooting percentage drop five percentage points. Evans gets back a nice spark from Marcus Thornton, who averaged 21.3 points per game after coming from the Hornets. Joining the duo are Jimmer Fredette from Brigham Young, a tremendous scorer with unlimited potential; and Isiah Thomas from Washington, who is better than advertised.
Keys for a Laker Victory:
– Score early, and score often
The Kings’ defense allowed 104.7 points per game last season; good for 25th in the league. Last season, Kobe averaged 31.5 points in four games. The Lakers went 3-1. The Lakers must set the pace from the get-go, or they may find themselves on the opposite end of a scoring barrage.
– Pass, pass, pass
In their loss to the Kings on January 28th, the Lakers shot just 41% from the field. If not for Kobe’s 38-point effort, the Lakers would have been embarrassed. To prevent this, the team has to pass the ball, and not rush any bad shots. Possessions are precious, and must be taken advantage of.
-Play a complete game
Twice last season, the Lakers collapsed against the Kings. This includes the April 13th victory, which saw the team give up an 18-point lead, and be forced into overtime. The Kings will rotate their players with ease, and should remain quite fresh throughout the game. While the Lakers are a better team, the Kings might be a deeper team. Thus, the team needs to play hard for 48 minutes because no lead is safe.
Prediction: Lakers 104, Kings 100