Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Darius Soriano —  March 17, 2013 — 80 Comments

Records: Lakers 35-32 (8th in the West), Kings 23-43 (13th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.6 (8th in the NBA), Kings 102.4 (16th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.4 (18th in the NBA), Kings 108.5 (29th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, Dwight Howard
Kings: Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, John Salmons, Jason Thompson, Patrick Patterson
Injuries: Lakers: Kobe Bryant (doubtful), Pau Gasol (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Kings: DeMarcus Cousins (questionable), James Johnson (out)

The Lakers Coming in: First, two significant injury updates to digest. Kobe Bryant is doubtful for this game as he recovers from his severely sprained ankle. The fact that he played at all against the Pacers defied expectations and by the 2nd quarter he pulled himself from the game due to the fact he could not put any weight on his foot. When he’s back remains an open question but I imagine him sitting out today and tomorrow and returning on Friday is most likely right now. The other not so good injury news, Pau Gasol experienced pain in his foot after a 2-on-2 workout yesterday and is seeing a foot specialist to determine the issue. There were hopes he’d return today or (more likely) tomorrow, but that looks less likely now. As with Kobe, resting until Friday could be in the cards and that’s if everything checks out okay when he sees the doctor. Here’s hoping for the best.

The Lakers are coming off one of their best wins of the season against the Pacers. Not only should  that win inspire confidence in the players who had to step up with Kobe and Pau out, but it also kept the Lakers in the 8th spot for another day (the Jazz beat Memphis last night which leaves them a half game behind the Lakers coming into tonight). In other words, that was a huge win and continues the Lakers down the path of redemption from their early season woes. They’re still a flawed team and on any given night they’ll struggle, but they’re also improving in ways that really matter — with better execution and adherence to the plan evident nightly. Dwight Howard is looking fully healthy and is doing so many little things better on defense that he’s literally one and a half times the player he was early in the year. With Nash finding his comfort zone and the bench players tuned into what they need to do each night, this group is becoming more reliable not just in terms of production, but in terms of approach.

The Kings Coming in: Since losing 6 games in a row from the middle to late February, the Kings have won half of their last 8 games. Their effort and focus has been better and with those improvements the results have improved as well. Who’d have thunk it?

The Kings have also made some personnel moves to help solidify their rotation and ensure that players’ roles were well defined. Aaron Brooks was waived and that allowed head coach Keith Smart to clean up his point guard rotation with Isaiah Thomas now the full time starter. The Kings also traded their most recent lottery pick Thomas Robinson to the Rockets in exchange for Patrick Patterson. Robinson was Houston’s starter but has become the Kings third big man behind Cousins and Jason Thompson.

As for the “old” Kings, this team is still hoping to build around the talents of Tyreke Evans and Cousins. Evans has been quite solid this season, recapturing some of his rookie season form. He’s scoring well on efficient shooting and, though his assists are down, has found a nice role playing off the ball more as a shooting guard. Cousins, meanwhile, continues to have a career trajectory that is in no way a straight line. He flashes his enormous talent often, but has also built up a reputation with the referees that impacts his game almost nightly. This has led to too many suspensions and ejections, which, in turn keep him from ascending to the franchise player the Kings hope he can be. Of course, there are still holes in his game as he still has trouble finishing inside and will too often settle for the long jumper.

All in all, the Kings remain a work in progress and the hope — as it’s always been — is that one or more of their young players makes the leap to be a franchise changer. If that’s neither Cousins or Evans, the Kings will get another shot in the lottery this season. Oh, and of course, all of this happens while there’s a fight to try and keep the team in Sacramento as prospective buyers try to move the team to Seattle. Not an easy time to be a Kings fan, that’s for sure.

Kings Blogs: Cowbell Kingdom and Sactown Royalty both do a fantastic job of covering the Kings.

Keys to game: Both these teams are banged up, but both are also coming off very good wins (the Kings thrashed the Bulls on Wednesday) and are playing some of their best basketball of the season. So while it’s easy to say the Lakers should win this game, that will still be dependent on their ability to come out and play with purpose while executing at a high level.

With or (likely) without Kobe, the Lakers’ offense will need to rely heavily on Nash creating in the P&R and Howard’s ability to dominate the paint against a good Kings front line. Whether Cousins plays will affect how deep the Kings go in their front court, but his absence won’t tip the scales as they’ll still go at least three deep with Patterson, Thompson, and Chuck Hayes. It’s the latter player who is an interesting variable here as he is a very good defensive big man who loves to use his strong lower half and quick hands to disrupt big men who love to play in the paint. If Howard does see a lot of Hayes, he’ll need to a better job of not exposing the ball or he will get it stripped away when going up for his hook or when rising up to dunk.

Getting back to Nash, however, he’ll have a smaller defender on him in Thomas and will need to attack him all night to keep the Kings’ defense off balance. Sacramento is one of the poorer defensive teams in the league and penetration with good ball movement will break them down consistently, which should feed into what Nash wants to do on any given possession. If he can get into the paint off the P&R and create good looks for himself while also picking out shooters around the arc, the defense will loosen up and that should only create more opportunities for Howard inside.

Defensively, the Lakers are going to have their hands full tonight simply based off the types of players the Kings have on the perimeter. In Thomas, Evans, and Thornton, the Kings possess multiple attack players who thrive in isolation but can also work out of the pick and roll as scorers. With the Lakers being a poor isolation defensive team, the big men will need to help early and often to ensure that none of those players have free reign to get into the paint and score easily. Once the bigs commit to help, the other wings must drop down to the paint to help on the glass and then recover back out to their own men in order to get back to shooters.

As for the Kings big men, both Thompson and Patterson can shoot out to 18 feet and must be respected out there. Howard will need to balance his desire to play in the paint defensively with the fact that his man will try to draw him away from the hoop to open up the middle for penetration. Look for Dwight to guard Thompson early as he’s the more paint oriented player of the two and that will leave Ron guarding Patterson. Both can be difficult covers when they get their offense going, so Ron and Dwight must be at the top of their defensive games tonight.

The other battle that will be worth watching is that of the reserves. I’ve already mentioned Thornton, but Jimmer Fredette and Tony Douglass also come off the Kings bench and both are capable of hitting shots at a high clip if left open. Those three will need to be guarded closely and not allowed to find their shots, turning the game into a shootout in the process. The Lakers reserves will need to do strong work on the defensive end while also finding ways to create enough offense for themselves. If Kobe doesn’t play, that removes a key shot creator and that will make Blake and Jamison carry a heavier load as shot makers (and Blake as a creator) in this game.

Tonight is the first game of a back to back and is a game the Lakers desperately need to keep pace in the playoff chase. And, as stated earlier, while they’re playing a team that’s had a poor year, lately they’ve been much better. The effort the team showed against the Pacers on Friday is very much needed in this game.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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80 responses to Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

  1. Rusty Shackleford March 17, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I hope Dwight remembers the spanking the Kings front line gave him back in November and endeavors to return the favor. I was at that game in Sacramento and had to sit next to a fan with a cow bell. No joke. $7.00 for a 16 oz. beer at a Kings game was the best part of that night for my dad and I.

  2. I have a feeling that this is going to be one of those dreaded ‘let down’ games. The Kings always play well against the Lakers and you can expect to see them come out with a lot of energy and fast pace. We need Nash and Dwight to not have high turnover numbers tonight and for Blake/Jamison to continue the hot shooting.

    Watching that video of Magic got me reminiscing about how great he was, but also how tough it was to watch the Lakers once he retired. Every game just seemed so empty until ‘Lakeshow’ started and then it was fun, but not fulfilling because the team didn’t have a real chance of winning it all. So what happens after Kobe hangs ’em up? It’s gonna be almost as difficult on me as when Magic retired. Not quite as bad because Magic’s situation was so sudden.

    Hopefully, the old DH12 will return and he can be the centerpiece of another great Lakers era.

  3. I have issues with dwight being our franchise player. He hasn’t showed he can consistently shoot free throws and you can’t dump the ball to howard hoping to get points due to lack of post moves. I don’t hate dwight( as I think he is a top 5 player in the nba when healthy and hes getting there) but Lakers are going to have to look at getting another superstar to pair with dwight in 2014 especially if kobe retires.

  4. Any links to the game?

  5. Gary,
    I think we will just have to accept that Dwight will be our cornerstone superstar. If he doesn’t measure up, then we may have made a mistake, but it was probably the only mistake we could make at this time.

    Part of the CBA was to prevent the Lebron/Wade/Bosh type of situation and, from initial reactions, it will probably accomplish its goal. It is why I think there will be another negotiation/work stoppage in 2017 – from either side. We will not be able to bring on another superstar and will probably have to develop our own.

    Kobe may be a lightning rod, but he is probably the most complete basketball player the game has ever seen. He has taken the talent he has and developed it to the ‘nth’ degree. There is simply no other player who we could get who would not have some type of hole in his game – perhaps except Lebron and we are very, very unlikely to get him.

    We will be going into a new phase of our franchise, but at least SAS, and MIA will be facing the same thing. OKC will still have to make compromises to keep under the luxury tax and this could sabotage their ongoing development. The NBA is going to be different, but I am glad we have Dwight to start with.

  6. Lakers can pull within a 1/2 game of Houston tonight with a win! Hopefully these guys won’t drop the ball and play down to the Kings level.

  7. Hou is now 36-31, if we win tonight, we’ll be 36-32 half game behind.

    Hou will play Jazz next, good timing huh.

  8. I dont care what issues this team have, i expect Kobe to be on civilian clothes tonight, this team should be more than capable to handle the Kings. This stretch of games are perfect for Pau and specially Kobe to heal and rest. We will really know if this team is really going foward by the way they handle this teams w/o our main weapon, they passed one test already gut check time…

  9. Not a team to skeep on tonight.

    Number 2 offense in the NBA since all-star break.

    Hope to see minutes from Blake as Thomas is real fast and can wear guys down.

    Keep it slow tonight guys.

  10. With Kobe nursing that Ankle tonight, hopefully we can have a repeat performance (or better) of the Indiana game from Steve Blake. Defensively, gotta mark Marcus Thornton, who always seems to Show Out against us.

  11. Nash has zero chance on Thomas.

  12. Got to give Mitch credit. The Jamison signing turned out to be huge for this team.

    To bad he missed those 6 games with MDA disease.

  13. In my opinion, with the personel we have right now available for this game, the Lakers are still a playoff team,first round fooder for sure but still a lot better that any of the teams we facing this week. They need to shut Kobe down for the rest of this week.

  14. Howard with back to back oop slam dunks. He is looking better and bettter.

  15. Hell of a time for Meeks to go on another funk.

  16. Most everyone playing well.

    Still worried about Nash though. 1 for 5 now shooting 23% the last 3 games and Meeks 2 for 16. Slumps?

  17. At least Nash have 6 assists, Meeks is bringing just bricks

  18. And after all that its all equal because Lakers have encountered a team that is hitting long open jump shots.

    Perimeter D could be better, but this is much ado about hot shooting from a team with zero pressure on them.

  19. As usual, letting these scrubs have career nights against us and stick around. Open jumper after open jumper. Smh

  20. Lakers decided to go trigger happy from 3 away from what had them dictating the game did not hit them and the defense relaxed, and we are tied.Running the offense thru Dwight was working why in the hell get away from it?

  21. Is it just me, but does Neils man crush for Dwight Howard sounds about the same as with Aaron and Andrew Bynum?

  22. Coach going only 7 deep on a night before a back to back on the road. Ugh.

  23. I have to say, Howard should have at least 12 fg attemps by now, he should have a monster game against this team.

  24. Playing inside out with Dwight Howard always leads to tons of 3 point attempts… didn’t anyone watch Orlando games when he was there? Meeks, or whoever is taking the shots, needs to just start making them. Unless you would rather have Meeks putting the ball on the floor and driving to the hoop? :/

  25. Ken i know what you mean but they are not hitting them, if they not hitting them if he kick it out they need to throw it back in after he re-post. Or get closer shots to the basket.

  26. Btw i did not wrote that vulgar comment above, moderator please?

  27. That commenter has been banned. He’s impersonating people.

    As for the game, the Lakers guards need to better balance their responsibilities as helpers on the glass when Dwight challenges shots and staying home with the Kings jump shooters. Dwight is doing a good job of deterring shots and the Kings guards are kicking out more often then they’re shooting.

  28. Thanks Darius.

  29. Excellent point Funky.

  30. I dont think the Lakers have the luxury to go to the end of the bench when they fighting for their playoff lives every single night if the Lakers were sitting pretty on a playoffs spot with 0 chance of missing the playoffs, sure, but every game is a playoff game.

  31. Really like the Jamison slip screen play.

  32. That foul on MWP was a make up call.

  33. Man, the team is compose of hardworking people out there right now.

    With 2 of your best players is out, you can’t ask for more.

  34. Steve Blake is playing out of his mind lately! This is the guy that we’ve been waiting for.

  35. Way to end the quarter!! Glad Howard got to rest bc of the team stepping up.

  36. Anyone who thought two months ago that Blake and Jamison would be our scoring machine’s would be lying!

  37. This is Portland Steve Blake right now – on fire.

  38. Jamison is blocking shots now, he should just drop the mic and yell ‘peace out’.

  39. Watching the difference in play now than when Duhon and Morris were getting heavy minutes makes me appreciate Blake that much more. Lakers may have the best 1-2 pg tandem if Blake keeps this up.

  40. Blake is doing his thing out there and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the Hack a Howard strategy employed by Keith Smart.

  41. If the 90 year old white Sacramento announcer calls Thorton ‘lil buckets’ one more time I hit mute.

  42. Lead go up to 12 and they let their guard down, again

  43. Meeks is just a bad player. Single handed messed up the run. What the heck does this coach see in him. One out of 5 games he makes shots. Eubanks can’t be worse then this guy. Dumb on defense and a brick on offense,

  44. Arenwe witnessing a collapse?

  45. I like the way Ken ALWAYS gets Ebanks’ name wrong. Funny.

  46. So sick of these huge runs we seem to give up EVERY game. Unbelievable.

    At least we’ve answered with a run of our own. Now don’t let up and step on their throats!

  47. Blake just made up for being kinda careless with the ball the last few mins.

  48. Howard with a key block and keeps it in play, leads to a Blake three.

  49. Blake could be MVP two games in a row.


  50. Its like the Lakers relax, the queens make a run and the Lakers built separation everytime at will, cant let go of the gas…

  51. Funky,

    That is just an MDA thing–he always plays short rotations. The weakness of the roster doesn’t help, of course. Makes me miss Matt Barnes.

  52. @rr. Maybe he believes that former Tonight Show band leader Kevin Eubanks is a better option than Meeks, I heard dude could ball AND shred the guitar.

  53. Ok rr. That Devon/Devin guy.

  54. I’ve noticed that too rr. 🙂

  55. Looking at the stat sheet Meeks is the only guy NOT balling right now. Rest of the team is going off. Ron is 8 for 10. Smh.

  56. I miss Barnes almost as much as I miss Shannon. See I can agree with you on the roster : ) But even without those obvious FO oversights, our record should be better. AJ sure looks good : )

  57. Man, what are you guys whining right now?! Meeks, the guy is on a slump right now that he can’t even buy a bucket or play against his man.

    Someday, there will be games that he will make those shots. Ron, has his own issues also in last month but look at him now.

    These are professional players and they will figure it out. In the playoffs, it doesn’t matter if your a bad 3-pt shooter because all that matters is that you will make all those needed shot when it matters and important.

  58. Thats the Steve Blake i remember from Portland and the Clippers, he finally arrived!!!

  59. Game 7 Ron is in the arena!

  60. Players 6 and 7 of the rotation 42 points great call of MDA playing the rotation really tight.Definetly have a grip of the team now. Half a game from 7th seed!!

  61. Robert, letting go Barnes was an oversight? What he did of note during his 2 seasons here? Besides getting hurt and dissapearing in the playoffs under both Phil and Mike Brown so he have no excuses, about Shannon it was economics. Those were players that the Lakers could not keep in one case and it wasnt worth bring back on the other.

  62. Another good win for the Lakers, six of the seven players with 10+ points. Steve Blake with another good game. Great all around team effort tonight.

  63. Dwight is making me regret saying hes not a franchise player. Also, when kobe and gasol comes back, I dont want to see antawn and blake lose their shooting touch and regress back to their previous selves. Keep the momentum going, dont let the foot off the gas pedal now.

  64. Miami at Boston tomorrow. If Miami wins, they will have the second-longest streak in NBA history. Garnett is unlikely to play
    –less than 50/50 according to Rivers.

  65. I thought Barnes don’t want to come back with Mike Brown coaching?!

    If that’s true, why bother talking why the Lakers let go of Barnes?! @_@

  66. Vhanz he was a dissapointment under both Phil and Brown so he had no excuses to think i was hoping he played for the Lakers someday and was really happy when he was signed, if he didnt want to play for Brown tje Lakers obviously didnt want anything to do with him either. Clark have done more in half a season tham Barnes did on 2 seasons.

  67. Fern: I was just haing a little fun with rr. You are right that Barnes does look quite a bit better with a different logo in the middle of the Staples Center floor. Shannon was our player and we could have kept him. Nothing about the salary cap would have prevented us from doing so. However, I don’t disagree with you, that we have a great roster, as I have been saying all along. I am not sure it is good enought to make the playoffs and then win 4 series in a row on the road, but we will see.

  68. Nice team win; bench players AJ & SB played large! one at a time; go LAKERS!!

  69. Darius: Edit + spell check feature is not working correctly

  70. Fern,

    Barnes has played 64 games this year for the Clippers, and has a 15.9 PER and a .568 TS. He had a 15.5 PER last year, and can reasonably be described as a competent NBA backup small forward.

    “Eubanks” has played 11 minutes since the calendar turned. I am not blaming the FO, really, for what happened with Brown and Barnes leaving. The problem is that they replaced Brown with Jason Kapono and replaced Barnes with Ebanks, who is not on track to have an NBA career.

    It’s great that Jamison and MWP have stepped up with Kobe out. It would be even better if the Lakers actually had another couple of decent NBA players on the 12-man. Remember–they have another game tomorrow, in PHX, and MDA is running a seven-man rotation with 4 guys who are well into their 30s. It may catch up to them in the 4th tomorrow. They lost a late lead in Phoenix last time they played there.

  71. I stand corrected Robert lol, about our playoffs chances , it depends of the right matchups of all the teams above us i think that against OKC we are most probably toast, every other team with this team as healthy as can be im going to quote SVG ” if the Lakers learn to play togheter they can beat anyone, anywhere at any time” and they are learning, i believe Kobe being injured its been sort of a blessing in disguise in terms of chemistry and cohesion, this team will be a tough out for anyone.

  72. @Rr

    How weird is this: Back in 2008, the Celtics ended the Rockets 22 game winning streak on March 18th. Same thing will happen to the Heat tomorrow when they play Boston, on March 18th…I hope!!! 5 years exactly. Weird.

  73. You are right that Barnes does look quite a bit better with a different logo in the middle of the Staples Center floor.

    He may “look better” but his actual production is actually pretty much the same. His shooting percentages are up a bit (the Paul factor), but his overall numbers track very evenly.

    As to Jamison, he has always been able to score if he gets the time.

    Broken record: the last couple of games convince me more than ever that the two-star platoon system is the best way to run this roster, if it is ever all available.

  74. Jane,

    I have never rooted for the Celtics in a game, ever. I have pulled for Miami against them every time the teams have played since James went to Miami (I don’t dislike James, unlike some here).

    But…tomorrow night may be the exception.

  75. “two-star platoon system”: Aways agreed with your record on that – broken or not.
    “if he gets the time” – So we agree again : )
    AJ is a guy who “can” replace 1 of the four. No not the same, but he is quite a bit closer than anyone else we have (or were playing earlier in the year).
    Guys like Ebanks, Duhon, etc. are on Mitch. However if you have guys like that, who you play should be all the more obvious. With a thin roster, guys like Hill, AJ, and Gasol should never be in the dog house.

  76. Robert,

    IMO, if you are going to keep bagging on MDA for earlier decisions, then you should also give him credit for the team going 19-7 over the last 26 games. People are talking about how motivated and cohesive the team seems to be–you have complained many times about your perception that he can’t motivate, manage etc.

    And one more time: Jamison gives a lot of it back on defense–he is one of many reasons that the Lakers are a below-average defensive team.

    The main takeaway for me WRT the Lakers without Kobe is that while Nash always gives some back on defense and has lost a step, he remains a very fine offensive player and a great floor general. I still think he and Kobe would be better off playing less together and playing 30-35 MPG each.

  77. The LA Lakers haven’t lost a game when Kobe scored 0 points!

    Silly statement of the day.

    Now we gave a back to back on the road with only 7 guys playing tonight. Might want to roll out a few of the props sitting on the bench tomorrow night.

  78. Robert, there’s a little more context than you’re providing. AJ was in the ‘dog house’, because we had a rotation of Hill, Gasol, and Howard. With Howard and Gasol playing 35 minutes each, that left 26 minutes to Jordan, minutes he earned with solid play in last year’s playoffs and at season’s start. In fact, Antwan entering the ‘dog house’ in mid-December corresponded precisely with Pau Gasol working his way back into the lineup from injury.

    I think that we all agree playing Jamison at the 3 is not ideal on defense or offense. The fact is that we need more depth at small forward, and we have too many bigs, save for our misfortune with injuries.

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