Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Darius Soriano —  January 28, 2011

Records: Lakers 33-13 (2nd in West), Kings 10-33 (14th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.7 (1st in NBA), Kings 102.5 (26th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (8th in NBA), Kings 108.0 (16th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Kings: Tyreke Evans, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes (out); Kings: Francisco Garcia (out)

The internet is on FIRE: Look around the web today at all your favorite basketball sites. TrueHoop started it all with the post we linked to this morning. Since that time, Zach Lowe at the Point Forward has weighed in. So has Kelly Dwyer. So has Kurt over at Pro Basketball Talk. So, is he or isn’t he (the king of clutch, that is)?

For me, there’s just all sorts of gray here and muddling through it all is more than I’m going to put down on this page right now. The short version is that Kobe has made too many great shots for me to ever discount his ability to perform with the game on the line. Those makes, to a certain extent, have shaped my perception of what he’s capable of doing and have me believe in him. The fact that he’s missed a lot of shots concerns me too, of course. I’m especially not fond of forced shots taken in situations where it’s seemed that a better look could have been obtained. So, it’s a balancing act with Kobe and in the end so much of how any one person feels will fall to perspective and what you value and what your rooting interests are.

And, in the end, my rooting interests lie with the Lakers. I want them to win. and that brings me to my final point: As a Lakers fan I take the good along with the bad when it comes to rooting for this team and for Kobe. I do it happily. Team results matter the most to me and look where this organization is right now and what it’s achieved over the span of his career. Five total championships, defending back to back champions and a contender for more. Sure, there have been bad moments. Plenty of times that I’ve questioned the shot that was taken and the situation it was taken in. There’ve also been plenty of times that I’ve literally jumped out of my chair cheering at the result a game, a shot, an assist, a rebound. I don’t expect this to sway anyone in any direction and it isn’t even an argument to propel or dispel the myths of how Kobe performs in the clutch. It’s only to say that he’s a guy that’s been able to get it done enough times that I trust him and I feel incredibly lucky that he wears the jersey of the team that I root for. (Now back to the game preview since, you know, there’s actually a game tonight.)

The  Kings Coming in: The Capital Kids have lost 5 of 6 and 8 of their last 10. In what was supposed to be a building block year, the Kings have at best been stagnant and at worst taken a few steps backwards. The young talent is in place, but continued strife between coaches and players and the lack of trust in the systems run mean that this team isn’t on the same page. Earlier in the year it was issues with DeMarcus Cousins and head coach Paul Westphal and now it’s Carl Landry that is speaking out in a way that doesn’t paint the head coach in a flattering light. And while those comments by Landry have since been explained in more detail, the question still remains if this team is on the right trajectory considering the young talent on the roster. At 10-33 on the year, I’m not sure you’ll find many that would think that’s the case.

Kings Blogs: As you can see from the links above, both Cowbell Kingdom and Sactown Royalty are tremendous sites that give fantastic insight and perspective on the Kings. You should visit both to learn up on this team.

Keys to game: Beyond all the X’s and O’s, the biggest ingredient to a Laker victory will  be focusing on the task at hand and on the team that’s actually on the floor. As we all know, the Celtics visit Staples on Sunday and it will be quite easy to look ahead to that game rather than completely hunkering down for the Kings. If the Lakers do that, though, they’ll be in for a dog fight.

So, the Lakers must look at their game plan and execute it fully in order to pull out the win.

Offensively that means going inside to Bynum and Gasol in order to make the Kings big men defend. Assuming the Kings starters are what I’ve listed above, Gasol will have a major size advantage over Jason Thompson and he should get plenty of touches to exploit it. As for Bynum vs. Cousins I’m very excited to see how this match up plays out considering the choice words that Cousins had about Bynum’s contributions to the Lakers most recent title run. Granted, those comments were made some time ago but this is the first time that the two will have faced off in game action.

Besides going inside to the bigs, though, the Lakers will also have an interior advantage with Kobe and Ron. In the past, the Kings have preferred to let Casspi (whose length and quickness can disrupt Kobe’s perimeter game) guard Kobe with a lesser defender taking on Artest. However, with Ron’s improved offensive play of late, we’ll see if that’s still the case. Either way, both Kobe and Ron should be able to earn post up position against any defender they match up against and we’ll likely see a variety of duck ins and curls from both players to get them shots in the paint.

Defensively the Kings end up running a lot of isolation even though their sets are predicated off ball and player movement. Evans and Cousins are often the guys with the ball in their hands in these iso sets so the Lakers must be aware of what both players want to do. Do not be surprised to see Ron guard Evans for long stretches and use his size and length to bother his handle and disrupt his driving angles. The Lakers want to keep ‘Reke out of the paint so expect to see some shading by Ron where he invites the jumper while forcing all drives to the baseline into helping bigs.

As for Cousins, he’s a gifted offensive player and the range on his jumper may invite coverage from Gasol rather than Bynum. In the last match up between these two teams, Pau did a pretty good job of limiting Cousins’ effectiveness (he shot 3-9 for 9 points) by contesting his jumper and then using his length to bother his shots in traditional post up situations. And while I’m sure that ‘Drew will get his chance to guard Cousins as well, it may make more sense to cross match here and allow Bynum to patrol the paint by laying off Thompson.

The other key to slowing the Kings D will be containing the P&R. Beno Udrih has long been a player that performs well against the Lakers and his ability to get into the paint on P&R’s has consistently been an issue when these teams play. However with the Kings struggling to connect on their outside shots and Bynum now protecting the paint as well as I’ve ever seen, here’s hoping that those driving lanes get cut off as help arrives quickly.

In the end, this is a game the Lakers should win. They’re far superior in all phases of the game. However, as mentioned earlier, this contest screams trap game and the Lakers would do well to concentrate on the Kings and not look forward to the team in green that visits on Sunday. If the Lakers’ priorities are in check, we’ll be looking at wing #3 in a row heading into the weekend. Here’s to them getting it.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

Posts Twitter Facebook

57 responses to Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

  1. For Warren —

    Is Kobe clutch?

    The question supposes that the last 10sec of a game are more important than earlier periods of time. At least that is how all the ‘talking heads’ and us fans seem to interpret it.

    Clutch can happen at any point in a game. The is the key factor that we all forget. When our team is in danger of falling out of a game and Kobe suddenly goes ‘Kobe’ on the other team – that is clutch, be it at the end of the game, in the 3rd qtr, or even in the 2nd qtr. I admit it usually isn’t in the 1st qtr.

    That is the fact that most of these ‘statisticians’ seem to forget. I suspect because it is extremely difficult to get most of the information without actually watching the game. It is however, what general managers and other players notice and react to.

  2. That clutch nonsense going back to the rookie year playoff airballs in utah was ridiculous. the arguments against were rooted in a lot of stats from ancient history. Recenty history says we all know who we want with the ball in the clutch! And he’s not afraid to share it after drawing the triple team!

    Don’t forget they’re debuting the courtside view tv angle broadcast on FSW2 (Prime Ticket) simulcast tonite I think??

  3. You want a good rebuttal to Henry’s? Here you go.

  4. Craig W ,
    That really is the point. The end game stats are meaningless. How many times has kobe come out in the 3rd and just ended the game. 4-5 buckets a couple long 3’s and game over. And something HA will never admit and really no one ever talks about. is the last 6 minutes of the gold medal game. Every great player that HA loves just moved to the side and let Kobe win the gold medal for them. As long as Kobe is in the NBA. he is the best.

  5. Abbott is a troll and a hack. He writes articles like this not to provoke honest debate, but to bait Laker fans and haters into flooding his blog. I for one am not going to humour him.

    The idea that Kobe’s numbers in the clutch don’t match his reputation is not new or original. has been posting clutch stats for years. I’m not sure why we’re discussing this as if it’s some brand new insight on Abbott’s part. Oh right, because that’s exactly what he wants.

  6. All the things mentioned in the first three comments are why we all agree that Fisher is a true clutch player. Becuase he does these things… but when Kobe does them they don’t count? That’s weird.

    And go Lakers!

  7. #5. Going a little far, no? Henry’s one of the best that does this. Has he shown to have a blind spot with the Lakers and Kobe? Sure. Is he some completely biased person with no sense or understanding of basketball? Of course not.

    As for today’s article that he posted, I didn’t take it as bad as a lot of people apparently have. Henry sought to define what he considers clutch and then went on to prove how Kobe isn’t as great in those situations as he’s made out to be. He didn’t say he’s terrible. He said he’s not as good as promoted. To some that may mean the same thing but it doesn’t mean that to me.

    I’m not here to defend Henry. I respect him, but don’t always agree with him. In this case, I respect the work but ultimately don’t reall care about the conclusion because it’s a limited view on what clutch is. Plus, like I stated in the post I’ve seen too much success to not believe that Kobe will get the job done. Maybe it doesn’t always work out that way but based off the overall team results to this point, why should I care? The Lakers are an elite team and he’s a major part of that.

  8. One of his points was that the Lakers, though the best offensive team overall for the game, are terrible at the end of games. Well duh!!! In most situations were are winning and it becomes a free throw contest or an attempt to run out the clock without fouling for us, while the other team is frantically trying to get back into the game.

    Think about the Golden State game when GS hit hard shot after hard shot to get back into the game at the end. We were just shooting free throws and trying to run out the clock. Those statistics would make GS seem like a clutch team down the stretch when the fact of the matter is they were most productive after the game had already been decided.

    Concession baskets and the like come into play then and his statistics don’t take that into consideration.

  9. Darius, maybe I’m being harsh but understand this: I’m not so much interested in whether he is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. I just find it annoying that someone so clearly biased posts articles like this under the pretext of impartiality.

    Bill Simmons, as a point of comparison, is an unabashed Celtic fan and Laker hater, so I know exactly where he stands and can read his work while filtering out the standard shots and Kobe, Laker fans, etc. Even if I read something and think ‘he’s full of crap’, I don’t get as annoyed as I do when I read Abbott transparently baiting Laker fans and pretending to be objective.

  10. To move on. For those that can get it, how many are planning to just watch the court level feed? I’m looking forward to that as I’ve enjoyed previous set ups with no audio and just the game feed. I’m going out to dinner with the wife and will set it up for the DVR. But I’m pleased that this is available. I’m hoping they won’t edit out too much of the chatter. Love to hear what the coaches and players are saying while the ball is in play.

  11. I said it at the end of the last thread and just to piggyback off what Craig and Lou have already partially espoused here:

    Why must we relegate “clutch” to the last 24 seconds rather than say, the last 3 minutes or so. I can’t even tell you how many times where I’ve seen players (Kobe more than most) make HUGE shots shortly before that 24 second mark that basically decided the outcome of the game and ultimately rendered the last 24 seconds irrelevant. Does that make those shots any less meaningful as they relate to “clutchness”?

  12. OT: How does T-Mac as PG sound to you?

  13. I look forward to seeing Kobe’s “clutchness” (however that is defined) on display tonight and more so against the Celtics this Sunday.

    Semantics and subjectivity with regards to definitions are totally warping the argument about Kobe. But from what the GMs and players say, they’re the ones in the trenches and they seem to resolutely conclude: I want Kobe in my foxhole!

  14. Thank goodness fans don’t play the game. They would be so frustrated by the airheads – opps, talking heads – that they might be unable to play the games.

    Always remember — it is the talking heads jobs to get us to listen and comment; not necessarily to give us correct or accurate information. It is up to us whether or not we want to listen to them.

    Now to keep our heads in the game long enough to have a ‘terrible’ closing game spurt, where the Kings have to shoot the lights out and we are just trying to defend a large lead.

  15. For those who are hating on Henry, remember who he roots for: the hapless Trailblazers. Let him enjoy the Blazers and their awesome “clutchness” in selecting Bowie over Jordan, Oden over Durant.

  16. Why are we even talking about kobe and his clutchness anyways? Has this not been written about by HA like for the hundredth time? Did the Lakers play a game yesterday and kobe fail to come through? Was yesterday a Kobe anniversary of some clutch play he made? All I remember from yesterday was some southbeach team needing a clutch play from their top heatle and he failed to get them a win. Why aren’t we talking about that clutchness?

  17. i think most of these analysis fail to take into account a number of issues besides the definition of what “clutch” is. Do they take into account the coach’s role in the last play, the system being run or play being drawn up on the last play?

    On a team where there are no obvious one go to guy and the team runs plays where it isn’t known who might be shooting the last shot, the shooter might have a better chance of geting an open shot and making the shot. With the Lakers it’s always known that kobe will have the ball in his hands and he usually ends up drawing 2-3 defenders making his shots more difficult. If you put some of these other “clutch” players in kobe’s situation with 2-3 guys on him, would he still make the shot?

    what the lakers and kobe do in the final moments of a close game is a known entity and so is often easier to defend. Even with that kobe is still averaging 31%? if you take the other “clutch” players and put them in the same situation, what would their average be?

    i’m just saying that it’s kinda hard to define and quantify clutchness. in the end these determinations are much more subjective than objective even if presented it with stats and pretty pie charts.

    speaking of pie charts, these are pretty funny.

  18. Lakers are trying to outscore the Kings in order to get this win. Kings are hot though and take the lead going into the half. If the Lakers come out with any sort of consistent defensive energy in the 2nd half, they should be able to pull away.

  19. As always when Kobe goes into killer mode the rest of the team goes into victim mode. The team has to learn to stay agressive when Kobe goes mamba.

  20. Completely inexcusible if the Lakers lose this game. Lets stop using the Celtic game Sunday as an excuse. This team has fell into that trap enough this year that they should have learned their lesson. Like Darius said, this team just needs to play a little bit of defense.

  21. Wow, is anyone watching this game? One post other than Darius at half-time?

    Maybe everyone’s watching Bos get spanked. Classic Javie moment in that one.

  22. This is sad

  23. Oh, we’re watching…..just can’t believe what I’m seeing….

  24. #21. I think everyone went to go watch The Green Hornet. They’re probably better off for it right now for it.

  25. We knew this would be a trap game. The Lakers knew this would be a trap game. But, hey, it doesn’t matter.

  26. If they lose tonight and on sunday, you think another article will come out about Kobe skipping practices?

  27. I think Phil should put Kobe on Evans because it’ll force him to defend and stop playing “centerfield”. Also Pau has been awful today I would like to see lamar get some burn.

    Pau has made two terrible entry passes, one to kobe and the other to Artest this quarter. the lakers look like they quit.

  28. When I told some collegues over lunch today that I thought the Lakers would lay an egg tonight in anticipation of the Cs, I only half believed it until now. Ugh. Down 18? It would be funny if it wasn’t infuriating.

  29. shocked by lack of effort, pau on offense and kobe on defense in particular

  30. I hope Kobe doesn’t go off….We don’t usually win when he scores alot….at least this season.

  31. When was the last time we won a game after the Heat lost one?

  32. 28. pau is absolutely getting torched on D too. stu is absolutely right how do u let Dalembert go to the same move over and over again. That is simply lack of effort, thinking “no way he will make another one”

  33. 31. Wow, I was thinking the same exact thing. Conspiracy?

  34. Phil keep this unit as long as possible please

  35. 34. yes do not bring Gasol back

  36. 33 – Plus, we have a bad tendency to lose on nights when Kobe sets milestones.

    But enough of the pessimistic talk. The energy on defense is where it needs to be. On the other end, we’re getting scores every time guys are moving off the ball. On the few possessions where that didn’t happen in the 4th, we wound up with bad shots late in the shot clock. It’s a simple correlation.

  37. I am the biggest Kentucky Wildcats fan you’ll ever meet, but goodness I have never seen Cousins play this well (or determined). I think this all goes back to his twitter post about Bynum, and wanting to prove something. It’s unfortunate he has the maturity level of a middle schooler or else he could be an epic player like Blake Griffin consistently.

  38. Controlling the boards will be a determiner of success for the rest of this game. We can’t afford to give up anything easy in the paint – layups or offensive rebounds.

  39. Oh Pau…couple of killers there.

  40. The game was lost in the paint, Cousins and Dalembert should never outscore Pau and Bynum

  41. 38. Mohan way to jinx it lol.. jk

    was it kobe that missed box out on casspi?

    if only the nba had 50 mins in regulation

  42. 41 – If only the Lakers played hard for more than 5 mins.

  43. The Lakers bigs better bring their hard hats on Sunday because if they bring this type of performance against the most physical frontline in the NBA (Boston), then it could get ugly.

    That failed layup attempt shows Pau’s lack of aggression he is so consistently knocked for, that should be a dunk everytime.

  44. Hilarious.

    How does the NBA expect to win over fans with officiating like this? That would have been HUGE.

    The Heat also won on a non-call today, for those that didn’t watch the game. 2 seconds left, fantastic play leading to an inbound alley-oop to Austin Daye at the rim, who was then clearly fouled by James Jones.

    NBA: Where Referees Happen

    By the way, I know FB&G’s stance on this issue. The team shouldn’t have put itself in a position to be decided by officials. However, that still doesn’t excuse bad officiating that actually may have resulted in a change in the outcome of a game. That’s my opinion, anyways.

  45. If the lakers miss homecourt bu a few games come a big playoff series, you can look back on these pathetic home performances against bad teams, this one to the Kings.

  46. the other Stephen January 28, 2011 at 10:09 pm

    well, i take some comfort in knowing that each team heads on to Sunday having lost their previous game.

  47. One positive thing from this game, that I always enjoy: The ones who actually believe in the negative stereotypes about the Staples crowd, they never watch games like this. The crowd was into it, in every way. They booed when it was justified, they roared and cheered when the team needed them.

    I like games like this because they remind me that there are a lot more real Laker fans than the small group commenting here. 🙂

  48. Mimsy, well said, that was almost like a playoff crowd atmosphere

  49. The only good thing that comes out of this is that the Lakers didn’t get blown out at home against a bad team.

    But this is just absolutely disappointing. They have to beat Boston on Sunday. But the turning point was the second quarter. It may not have seemed like much at the time, but Phil Jackson didn’t re-enter his starters until about the 4:30 seconds left in 2nd quarter. The second unit didn’t play all that bad but the lakers were outscored by 7 points in that quarter. That took Kobe completely out of a grove and gave Sacramento confidence. I think Phil knew what he was doing. I think he didn’t want kobe to go into hero mode and turned out they needed that kobe down the stretch but he was out of a rhythm and couldn’t get a shot to fall.

    When Phil does strange things with his line up they normally lose.

    But I just can’t believe how bad Pau plays sometimes. There are games where he can’t defend at all. It’s been far to often where he’s been tentative on the offensive end. I just think Pau gets intimidated when he’s defended by players with length. Pau really has to snap back into it or the lakers will struggle the rest of the season. Either that or he should be benched until he can start playing with consistent effort and focus.

  50. Every Celtic hater should watch highlights from their game tonight. The play before KG was tossed (but not the reason why he was tossed): Channing Frye shoots a 3, KG deliberately fists him in the groin, then extends his leg so Frye would land on it and twist and ankle…

    One of the ugliest plays I’ve ever seen…

  51. #51. Did you watch the game? Your comment implies that you didn’t. Again.

  52. I liked the comeback that we had toward the end of the quarter, it was a good run for a while. Since the C’s lost, I am somewhat OK with this loss. Of course my Celtics roommate has to tell me, “well you cannot get a Championship every year”, I just chalk it up to the way they think and talk though, and let those type of comments roll of my back, kind of.

    I cannot wait until Sunday, Go Lakers!

  53. The lakers have now lost 8 games to teams below .500 That implies lack of focus and effort. What’s even worse than that is 6 of the 8 have been at the staples center (1 away game vs. clippers).

    Its not like the lakers have been over looking bad teams and showing up to play the good teams because they loss to the top 3 teams they’ve played (Spurs, Heat, Mavs) and overall are just 7-6 against teams over .500 . The lakers the toughest schedule left in the league and I just don’t know what to make of the lakers.

    And I guess Kobe has to go back to fully participating in practices.

  54. Darius,
    Kobe played a great game… But when he goes into attack mode from the tip off the other guys melt next to his intensity. I don’t think it’s Kobe’s fault… This team isn’t used to him playing like that very often… The 05 Lakers team, now that’s a different story. In games where Kobe comes out gunning the Lakers lose a lot more than they win so far this season. Kobe played a brilliant game that took me back to his younger days, where he could get anywhere he wanted on the court and finish in the lane over anyone. The problem is this team (besides Derek & Lamar) has only seen this Kobe maybe ten times over the last three plus years. Some of it has to do with lack of experience but some of it has to do with style of Kobe’s supporting cast. Where before he was surrounded by below average talent that only wanted to spot up from the perimeter (Fisher,Horry,Fox etc) he now plays with star players at aren’t used to standing around and watching a brilliant player dominate (Gasol,Artest,Odom,Bynum). I feel the onus though is on Kobe’s supporting cast to learn how to stay aggressive and fill in the blanks when Kobe starts controlling the offense.

  55. I tried to edit my comment but it wouldn’t let me. I was going to add that this wasn’t a case where Kobe needed to save a floundering Lakers squad from defeat. He started the game dominating the offense from the get go. Again… It’s a problem that Jordan had to deal with his whole career… Balancing his own greatness within the team concept. Kobe I think does it better than mj ever did.

  56. @Knickers-

    You do know that Sasha isn’t on our team anymore right? I’m beginning to have this suspicion that you aren’t really a Lakers fan and it would really explain quite a bit…