Preview & Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Kurt —  November 23, 2008

Records: Lakers 10-1 Kings 5-9
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.7 (3rd in league) Kings 107.2 (11th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 95.6 (1st in NBA) Kings 113.4 (29th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Vladimir Radmanovic, Pau Gasol, Andew Bynum
Kings Beno Udrih, John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Donte Green, Brad Miller

Lakers notes: No live blog here tonight, but this gives me the chance to point you to one of my favorite things this season — Mike Trudell’s in-game live blogs at Trudell joined Ty and the gang over there this season and has been a fantastic addition. Great sense of humor, good game insights, just a generally good read, something all Lakers fans should be checking out.

After the last couple of games, what else can you really say but that the Lakers need to keep playing the way they have been. Keep focused on defense, keep getting good play from the two bigs coming into games they can dominate.

Most Entertaining Game I’ve Seen This Season: Went to the home opener of Long Beach State last night, playing Weber State. Bit of background, Long Beach was honoring former coach Jerry Tarkanian (Tex Winter, Lute Olsen, and Seth Greenberg all coached at Long Beach as well). Now Dan Monson (one of the architects of Gonzaga) is trying to resurrect the program.

Long Beach is small, so they packed it in early with a 2-3 zone to try to protect the paint against a bigger squad. It didn’t work, three point shots and offensive rebounds killed Long Beach and they were down 20. But in the third quarter Long Beach switched to an aggressive man-to-man, started trapping on pick-and-rolls, and they extended the defensive pressure out to half court. On offense, they started hitting the shots over the top of the Webber State zone.

Long Beach went on a 26-1 run to take the lead, and the crowd was going nuts. There is just nothing quite like the college hoops atmosphere with the student section. Things remained close near the end. Long Beach had a three-point lead with :05 left, and Weber State was stymied with their offensive set, and were force to settle for a 30-foot fade-away three by Damian Lillard, who hits it Vince Carter style. OT. Long Beach continues the aggressive defense and hit key free throws to get the win in an OT that was back and forth.

Nobody in this game is likely to end up at the next level (at least in the NBA, a couple maybe in Europe). But Long Beach has made big strides in the last year, the talent level is not great but it’s better and some of the most impressive guys were freshmen and sophomores. This is a program headed in the right direction, keep an eye on them.

The Kings Coming In: The Kings come in to Staples without Kevin Martin and Francisco García, Martin was averaging 22 a game for the Kings before spraining his ankle, and they are 2-5 without him. Injuries has been one of two key problems for the Kings, according to arguably the best NBA blogger around, Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty (and Fanhouse and Sporting News).

There are two real reasons the Kings find themselves a stones throw behind where they’d like to be: injuries, and terrible perimeter defense by everyone but John Salmons.

Brad Miller sat the first five games; two games later, Kevin Martin went down and hasn’t been seen since. Francisco Garcia hasn’t played a single second this season, and Mikki Moore (an admittedly lower level player, even for this time) has been out three games. Whatever roles Reggie Theus attempted to define in the preseason, those have been all shaken up. Spencer Hawes started at center for five game, Jason Thompson spent three games starting at small forward and two more at the power forward. Donté Greene, a rookie deemed too raw for action the first week of the season, has started the last two games. AH!

Also, Beno Udrih either cannot close out on shooters or chooses not to. And a myriad of rotations have been blown by a Miller who can’t muster up the energy to get out at deep shooters. That’s why the Kings are among the worst in the league at opponent’s three-point percentage.

One of the bright spots for the Kings has been the play of Spencer Hawes. In his second year in the league, he has the second best PER on the team. On offense he has a true shooting percentage of 58.7% and is a seven footer hitting 44% from three. He can be a good player in this league and a is a piece the rebuilding Kings will want to keep.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers have advantages all over the place in this game.

Inside, Brad Miller can’t handle Bynum on the block. Green is a green rookie who can’t hang with Gasol (the four is position the Kings struggle most to defend, opposing fours get 24 an 10 per 48 minutes shooting 53%). That said, Ziller notes that the interior defense for the Kings has been improving.

The perimeter is another story all together. Teams are shooting 42.5% from three against the Kings, Radmanovic and Fisher should get good looks. The Lakers should be able to run on the Kings, particularly with the second unit. Salmons generally does a decent job on Kobe, but #24 is still going get into the lane and draw doubles, and that is going to open things up for others.

Bottom line, is the Lakers should score a lot of points tonight.

The Lakers need to keep playing their defense as they have the last couple of games.. Udrih is a nice PG, but he is not the player who can cause the Lakers aggressive traps problems. (Martin is the one guy who could but the Lakers don’t have to worry about him tonight.) If the Lakers trap and create turnovers (leading to transition points) that will be a big step to the win.

But if the Lakers take the night off, the Kings still have players that can hurt you. Brad Miller can still shoot the ball if you leave him. Hawes can score as well. Salmons can score. The list goes on. The Lakers need to be focused to win.

Where you can watch: Another Fox Sports and League Pass night.