Preview and Chat: Sacramento Kings

Kurt —  April 6, 2008

Records: Lakers 52-24 (2 seed); Kings 36-40 (11 seed)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.4 (3rd); Kings 108.9 (14th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.4 (8th); Kings 111.5 (25th)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladamir Radmanovic, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Kings: Anthony Johnson, Kevin Martin, John Salmons, Mikki Moore, Spencer Hawes

Lakers Notes: I’ve focused on my frustrations on what passes for the Lakers defense, but not watching the Lakers for a week then watching the way the offense clicked against Dallas reminded me just how much fun this team can be to watch.

I was going to break down some numbers, but Tom Ziller did that already and did it well at Fanhouse:

The Los Angeles offensive onslaught, as you would imagine, has been vicious — 104 points in 89 possessions against the Blazers, 112 points in 86 possessions against the Mavs last night.

On-off data from would corroborate Pau’s positive impact on the offense — the team has an offensive rating of 119.1 when Gasol is on the floor (versus a figure of 109.8 overall); for perspective, Utah and Phoenix have the best offenses in the league at offensive ratings of 111.2. The Lakers with Gasol are about 7 points better on offense than the freaking Suns.

Gasol totally opened up the offense (which was going well even before he got here). His inside/outside game is a perfect fit for the triangle. You now have to double him and Kobe, and both of them are good passers who are hitting the open man when the double comes (or, Kobe will just drive through it and score anyway). The Lakers are moving without the ball, particularly Odom, and they are crashing the boards. The Lakers are making that extra pass. No team is going to totally be able to stop the Lakers on offense.

The Knicks Are Looking Better: I think Mike at Knickerblogger hit this on the head — Donnie Walsh was not perfect in Indiana, but he was a far sight better than what has been going on in New York. Walsh oversaw some good drafts and made some great trades (JO being the best move). This was a good hire for New York, so long as Dolan gives him latitude.

I think the Lakers should offer Isaiah Thomas a front office job overseeing trades. (Just kidding, I wasn’t here on April Fools Day to make a whole post out of that.)

The Kings Coming In: The Kings are banged up – last night no Ron Artest, no Beno Udrih, no Brad Miller. The result – they still beat Denver 118-115. None of those three are expected to suit up tonight, a break for the Lakers on the road.

I’ve talked before about how much I like Kevin Martin — a few commenters on this site tried o compare him to Reggie Miller and say it was a bad thing. Reggie Miller was one of the best pure shooters and scorers in the league. Surround him with the right players and he could be a key cog on a title team.

Also last night, Mikki Moore added 23 and Francisco Garcia had 29 off the bench.

One other thing – the Kings are playing hard for Reggie Theus. It may have taken a while for him to warm up to Martin, he may rely a little to much on veterans over the best players, but there is no doubt that the players respond to him. That’s something.

Last Time These Two Played: Did I mention the Kings play hard and you can’t sleep on them? They played hard, the Lakers looked shaky on defense, the Lakers couldn’t stop the penetration of Udrih or Martin, and the Kings got a win, 114-113.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers, and Kobe in particular, have had their best success against Kevin Martin playing ball denial with him. He needs to be the first guy stopped — Kobe can’t just gamble on the steal but needs to play smart, denying the ball and staying between Martin and the basket to slow his penetration.

The Kings run a lot of screens and in the last meeting Fisher got caught up in them, allowing Beno to have a huge game. Combine that with Kobe not chasing Martin on the many back cuts he and the other Kings guards make and we got to watch a lay-up drill. The Lakers need to be prepared, stick with their man (not ball watch) and cut off those passing lanes. Also, Gasol (and Ronny) need to defend the paint.

Sacramento is a long and fairly athletic team, which has given the Lakers problems in the past. Last meeting the Lakers let the Kings control the tempo and tonight they cannot do that. The Lakers have had a tendency to come out flat against non-playoff teams – Sacramento is playing too hard to do that and get away with it. That’s why the Lakers lost to them last meeting (and almost lost to them the game before that).

Where you can watch: Game time is 6:30 pm on Fox Sports in LA and League Pass everywhere else.