Records: Lakers 23-5 (1st in West) Kings 13-15 (13th in West)
Offensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 107.5 (15th in league), Kings 109.1 (9th in league)
Defensive points per 100 possessions: Lakers 99.4 (2nd in league) Kings 110.4 (27th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Kings: Tyreke Evans, Donte Green, Omar Casspi, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes
Ron Artest Out: Ron Artest tripped over a box and will now miss the Lakers Boxing Day game. He was at home last night and tripped over a box and down a flight of stairs. He was taken to a hospital, got stitches in the back of his head and on his left elbow. He was released last night and will visit with a neurologist today (Saturday) and any decisions on the Lakers Monday/Tuesday games will be based on that.
It will be interesting to see what Phil Jackson does here. He likely starts Odom at the three and goes big. But he can play Shannon Brown at the two, have him guard Evans, and slide Kobe to the three.
The Kings Coming In: Do not think the Kings are just a give me win, they are 4-6 in their last 10 and that includes taking the team that just thumped the Lakers (the Cavs) to overtime. They also had that great comeback against the Bulls — most teams down 35 with 18 minutes left and on the road roll over, and they fought back and won. That says this team is building something.
If the voting started today, Tyreke Evens would be rookie of the year. He has taken on the Dwyane Wade role for the Kings, as the guy with the ball in his hands who has to score and create for the other team. He is big and strong – 6’6” and he can bull rush you or beat you with quicks. He gives the Kings a player to really build around (although as a two it may mean Kevin Martin is on the move).
Also, Casspi has been a great surprise for the Kings. There were a lot of questions about how developed his game was. I’m not sure what the scouts were looking at, although he looked solid but not THIS good go me at Summer League. He has shown range all over the floor, you can’t leave the guy anywhere on the court. He also hustles on defense and is a solid rebounder. Just a good rookie.
By the way, they still really hate the Lakers in Sacramento.
Keys to game: For the Lakers, it’s going to start with stopping Evans and his penetration. He shoots 58% when he gets to the rim, but if the Lakers big can cut off the path then he becomes a weak shooter — from the rim out to 10 feet he shoots 29%, from 10-15% it is 13%. He also is not a good three point shooter. Make him a jump shooter, keep him away from the rim. That means the Lakers bigs need to rotate.
The other deciding factor tonight may be the Pau Gasol/Jason Thompson matchup at the four. Thompson can be the kind of physical defender that gives Gasol difficulty. Even so, the Lakers still need to work the offense more through him and less in the ugly isolation stuff we saw against the Cavs. The Lakers need to run the offense.
Along those lines, the Lakers have the height advantage — especially with Odom moving into the starting lineup — will be hard for the Kings to match. The Lakers need to run the offense inside-out. Pass it in the post, cut off of that, kick-out if the double comes but repost sometimes. Just run the offense. The Kings are not a good defensive team, exploit them, make them pay.
What I really want to see is the focus and the effort of the team tonight.
Where you can watch: 7 p.m. start on KCAL here in Los Angeles, and of course ESPN 710 radio.