Preview and Chat: The Sacramento Kings

Darius Soriano —  March 30, 2013

Records: Lakers 37-36 (9th in the West), Kings 27-46 (12th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.3 (8th in the NBA), Kings 103.0 (14th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.7 (18th in the NBA), Kings 108.3 (29th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Kings: Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, John Salmons, Jason Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins
Injuries: Lakers: Metta World Peace (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Kings: James Johnson (out)

Kings Blogs: Cowbell Kingdom and Sactown Royalty are both provide excellent coverage of the Kings.

Keys to game: We’ve been saying it for weeks but this is a must win game. The Lakers’ final 8 games are a gauntlet and with the Jazz pulling even in the win loss column (and thus ahead in the standings due to their holding the tie-breaker), wins aren’t about creating a cushion, they’re about getting back into the playoffs. This game against a team who’s actually below them in the standings is one of the last “winnable” games on the schedule.

But even with all that said, the Kings are playing some of their best basketball of the season coming off two good road wins over the Warriors and the Suns. Plus, in their last 10 games they are 6-4 with an offense that is explosive, efficient, and balanced. In this stretch they have 5 players averaging double figures and are getting excellent play from Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans, and DeMarcus Cousins. Combined, that trio is averaging nearly 58 points a night, grabbing 18 rebounds, and dishing out over 13 assists. Add in the scoring punch that Marcus Thornton and Patrick Patterson are providing with solid contributions from Jimmer and Toney Douglas, and this team has potent weapons who can all do damage.

That may spell trouble for a Laker team that’s struggling on defense right now. For those who thought the Lakers would be better without Ron in the lineup, they only need to look at the 230 combined points the Lakers have given up in the two games he’s been out of the lineup. Ron had his issues on both sides of the ball, but his competitiveness and versatility on defense has been missed severely by a team that struggled to get stops even when he was in the lineup. Without him, teams have more defenders to pick on and have been doing so, attacking Meeks, Jamison, and even Clark whenever they enter the game. Add those guys to Nash, Blake, and Kobe (who all have had their woes) and that’s a lot of perimeter holes to plug and not enough backline support to pull it off on most nights.

Look for the Kings to exploit this perimeter defense through isolations and pick and rolls for Thomas, Evans, and Thornton whenever they’re in the game. Nash is questionable with a hip and hamstring issue and while the hope is that he’ll play, he’ll be severely tested when guarding Thomas all night. The ultra quick former Washington Husky can be a dynamic attack player as his recent numbers show. Nash will need to do his best to contain him, but will need adequate help behind him. As will Blake/Meeks when they’re on Thornton. As will Kobe when he’s on Evans (though hopefully not as much since guarding a dribble attack player usually engages Kobe). I think you get my point.

Dribble penetration usually opens up other parts of the offense too so the Lakers will also need to be aware of kick out passes to spot up shooters and the Kings attacking the offensive glass when shots are taken inside. The last time these teams met, Patterson had a field day spotting up for long two pointers. Avoiding a repeat performance will mean paying extra attention to him when he floats around the wing and recovering to him when kick-outs occur. And, as mentioned, the Lakers will also need to be extra attentive on the offensive glass. Cousins is one of the best offensive rebounding players in the league and when his totals are combined with Thompson and Patterson’s they average seven a game. Dwight, Pau, Jamison, and Clark will need to show help but recover the glass to avoid giving this team a lot of extra possessions. The guards will also need to balance covering spot up shooters with digging down to help on the backboards.

Offensively, with Nash and Kobe both banged up, I’m hoping to see a more controlled attack that features the Lakers’ big men more. Pau and Dwight have both been playing fairly well on offense lately and getting them the ball in the post against a Kings group who is not very good on defense should be a priority. I don’t care so much how these actions begin — they can be straight post ups or P&R’s that lead to delayed dump ins — but the bigs must get their touches and given the chance to control the tempo of the game. The Kings will want to push the tempo so controlling the pace of the game through a more power-centric game plan would be nice to see.

Dumping the ball inside would also, hopefully, help control the Lakers’ turnover issues. Kobe and Nash have had a propensity to turn the ball over when looking to make plays out of the P&R, so playing a more inside out game that’s based off the easy entry should help there. This isn’t to say that Nash and Kobe can’t be aggressive (or, if Nash doesn’t play, Blake) but they must make better choices and look to move the ball with purpose and to the clearly open man rather than forcing the issue. And Kobe, in particular, must also better balance his shot taking with moving the ball in general in order to keep the defense guessing. Late in games he’s been too predictable and while that comes down to other players being more assertive (Nash and Pau can’t just give up the ball to Kobe every possession), he must also fight the instinct to go into full on scorer mode and instead look to involves his teammates more late in the game. Especially if the contest is close.

This game may just come down to who can outscore who, but that simply means a key stop here and there will make a world of difference. The Lakers need this game sorely and the Kings would surely like nothing better than to blast one more hole in the hull of what looks to be a sinking ship. The Lakers will need to respond in kind or their night will end with them in an even worse  position than when they started.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm 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. Kobe Alert: I flew to Milwaukee for the game. I try to be there in person for Kobe’s big events. I was right behind the Laker bench, when Kobe went by Hakeem for 8th (home game) and I was right behind the scorer’s table in Philly, when KB moved by Shaq for 5th. I was hoping that KB was going to move by Wilt in Milwaukee, but he fell 4 points short. This time, I was sitting in the front row, right behind the Laker bench. The seats were great, got some killer photos, but obviously the results were disappointing. I spoke a little to Pau and Nash pre-game and they seemed fairly engaged and psyched. DH was acting just like he always does, smiling and being animated at times. The Laker bench however, was a little listless, especially considering the magnitude of these games. Of course, Sacre was doing his thing, but even he was a little reserved by his standards. MD very rarely individually engaged with any of the players. He mostly spoke with the coaches, and drew up stuff on his board in the huddles. The players were listening and engaged, but there was little enthusiasm. Again, I was right there, so I could hear some of what was being said. There was very little positive energy coming from our huddles or the coaching staff. I have watched Kobe play for his entire career (many times in person) and he did not seem right for much of the night. Kobe never smiles too much and often looks perturbed, but this was something more. I certainly did not know that the bone spur had flared up at the time, but I told the guys I was sitting with, that it looked like he might have the flu again. He was measuring every movement and not wasting any energy. There were some huddles during his rest time, that he did not join. The guy was clearly in quite a bit of pain. That said – Kobe Bryant is a warrior. I was sitting right behind Kobe during his 4th quarter rest. To add to the misery, there were a couple of hecklers in our section. and the usher actually warned them a couple of times. I was encouraging and praising Kobe as much as I could (not that he needs anything more than his own self-motivation). When his number was called to go back in, he popped right up from his border line depression, and went right to work. A man who didn’t seem to have the energy to walk or talk, when he was on the bench, transformed himself into #24. He never gave any indication to anyone that he was fighting the injury – he simply played through it – as he has done throughout his career. M Daniels was in Kobe’s grill all night and while he got sent to the line quite a bit, there were many more that could have been called. The game was actually fairly physical. At the end of the game, KB was laboring even on his free throws, but he just gutted it out for 30 points on 17 shots (416th thirty point game).

    It was an honor just to be in this man’s presence during an effort like this.

    During the Buck game, Kobe pulled into a tie with Moses for 12th on the minutes list. He now needs just 13 FGs to catch Elvin for 6th. Five more points and he can move by Wilt Chamberlain for 4th place on the All Time Scoring List. When his career is complete (which I am hoping is no time soon), no matter where he ends up ranked on the scoring list, his legendary rank in NBA history is already secure.

  2. Nice write-up, Robert. I try to point out the transcendent greatness of Kobe to my teen-age sons when we watch Laker games: his unparallelled mental and physical toughness, preparation, and indomitable will to compete. And of course, his hubris that can cost his team–a fully dimensional hero, Achilles heels and all.

    I will share your post with them, as it gets at the essential truth of the man.

  3. @ Darius- Great write-up as always! I have one question for you about your second to last paragraph. You’re saying that dumping the ball down into Dwight/Pau will ‘hopefully’ lessen our turnovers. I’m not sure if it really will. DH and PG average 2.9 and 2.0 turnovers per game and Kobe averages 3.7 while Nash averages 2.0 per game. If we give the 2 bigs twice as many touches as they’ve gotten so far, then couldn’t that just double their turnover rates? The eye test still says that DH is struggling when he gets straight up post touches, but Pau seems to be more effective with them and passing out of them. C.A Clark wrote an interesting article over on SS&R about switching Pau/DH roles and having DH play power forward on offense and defense while Pau plays center.

    This game is as close to a must win as we’ve had all season… Anyway, go Lakers!

  4. Great stuff, Robert. Feel free to email me a photo or two if you have time.

  5. Off topic…but henry abbott has zero journalistic integrity.

  6. This may be the last time the Lakers play in Sacramento, and the Kings will be hyped up for that reason. Their fans certainly will be.

    Unless the Lakers somehow greatly improve their play, especially on defense, tonight’s going to be a loss.

  7. Rusty Shackleford March 30, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I had a coworker text me about bunk officiating in the OKC loss to Minny last night. My response was basically in tune to Pat Riley’s response to Danny Ainge. I’m not saying the Lakers have excuses for everything they have endured this season (I was not a fan of the Nash signing; Darren Collison por favor).

    Something Bill Simmons should do a Mailbag about is the most unlucky teams of this season. There have been many (namely in the East; poor Miami) other than the Lakers.

  8. As others have mentioned, excellent ‘Insider Info’ Robert. You mention that “… there was little enthusiasm … There was very little positive energy coming from our huddles or the coaching staff.” Just wondering (not posing a question to you) if the lack of enthusiasm and listless emotion has anything to do with the tirade that D’Antoni went on after the Wizards loss when, IMO, he basically quit on the team by ridiculing their championship aspirations (I believe he mentioned the phrase Sham-Mockery). That post-game rant could have had a psychological effect on the entire team (his staff included) and sucked away their passion to fully compete (cause quite frankly, even though we pulled it out, we didn’t look too good against Minny either).

  9. Great post, Robert. I’m seething with jealousy, but I can appreciate a great post. My dream is to see Kobe at least once in person before he retires, which is why I’m hoping he hangs on for a few years after 2014.

  10. Lakers need no less than 20-20 from Dwight. 30-20 might guarantee a win. With his troopers wounded he has to step out in front and lead.

  11. Looks like Nash gave it a try. Hope he is okay.

  12. When you sign a 39 year old PG for 3 years with a history of back problems you get a guy who plays half a season.

    As Forest Gump said” Stupid is what bla bla bla.

  13. At this point of the season the Kings are a better team then the Lakers. feeling another 6 plus TO, bad shooting Kobe game. This is a blow out for two lottery teams.

    Lakers are probably going to finish 10th the lowest in their history. Sad.

  14. This team is pathetic.

  15. Kobe should not be playing. He looks worse Then I have ever seen him look.

  16. So far into the season and all the practice time throughout the year and this is the best Lakers can come up with.

  17. Im thinking nobody on the Lakers can stay in front of their man. Dwight should win defensive player of the year because without him, Lakers defense would be last ranked in the league.

  18. Kobe definitely looks off, he actually looks to have developed an odd hitch in his free throw shot – I noticed it when he shot the defensive T, that he missed.

    Not sure what all his physical problems are, but he looks notably unKobe.

  19. Another guy will have a career high tonight with Kobe struggling on defense. Now it’s Salmons. Guess this coach is blind.

  20. At least with Nash out the Lakers defensive issues should be solved for a game….

  21. Congrats to Kobe on passing Wilt on the all-time scoring list.

  22. Was that sarcasm Rob?

  23. Congrats to Kobe on passing another legend. Dude is out of sorts but he is trying.

  24. Boogie is so much fun to watch….it’s just a matter of time before he KTFOs someone in game, could be a ref, his coach, another player, a fan…who knows!!!

  25. Ken – yes – sorry, frustrated…

  26. All negatives, didn’t even mention that they are back in the game.

    Too much expectation…TOO MUCH!!!

    We need a win, and we need to be in the playoffs because we got no lottery picks.

    I don’t care if they will get sweep…

    You can’t win if you will not lose…

  27. MDA takes out Howard…smh

  28. I think the Lakers are a better team on both ends with Blake over Nash.

  29. Kobe will probably get blamed for letting Salmons leak out. Kings get a free 3 points because nobody covered Kobe’s man giving Kings the ball on their side of the court.

    Kobe plays the whole first half D’Antoni sits Dwight with 2 fouls. Not showing much trust.

  30. This team is just worthless, And Dallas and Utah won tonight on the long list of things this team has blown, it wouldnt be complete without blowing the playoffs spot.

  31. Much better second quarter except for the last three seconds

  32. I feel so for Kobe and Jordan said the same too. Why can’t this team help Kobe? Why can’t his teammates step up? Pau and Jamison cant get rebounds on a defensive stop but people want to pile on injured Kobe. Dmh

  33. No one is piling on Kobe. Guy is all-time warrier. Here he is injured and he will probably play 46 minutes. FO gave him old, slow poor defensive teammates. Not his fault. he will have to carry this dead weight for 10 more games.

  34. Ok is it just me or did this game turn when Earl came in and the defence went up a huge notch?

  35. Kobe plays the entire game so his foot doesn’t tighten up on him. Question the Mamba????

    Jamison has been playing well recently and Dwight Howard is playing like a winner.

    Earl Clark’s athleticism is effective in the game, not much by way of official stats just the eye test that tells me he is making a difference.

  36. People most of the times will comment only if they saw something wrong, can’t even appreciate good things during the game.

    They will always remember the bad things. Too bad treatment.

  37. 3rd quarter best effort of the year. Howard, Jamison, Kobe and Blake actually showing they care.

  38. Howard great work on the boards tonight

  39. Season on the line and nobody’s here. Incredible.

  40. Howard manning up big time tonight. Blake too.

  41. Their all at the Dodger-Angel Game. Nahhh

  42. Lil Pau,

    exactly…no energy on the board…only posting negative comments. one of the best runs of the whole season, (i.e. this run after they were down 7 in the 3rd quarter), receiving almost no comment.

  43. Paul to Howard for the slam dunk

  44. That always happens on fb&g. Whenever the team is playing its worst is when the board is busiest. 😉

  45. This team is better with Pau and Blake out there. 1st game in a month where a PG is not killing them

  46. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m pointing out.

    I mean, when you are truly a Laker fan and you’ve been a fan for whole life, you must be there no matter what cheering for this team. Win or Lose, championship or bust. No life, no energy on this thread. All negatives, how can you be a die hard Laker fan if you only want to WIN and WIN and WIN. Life is not like that, you must still go on as a fan for this team, on this team.

  47. This team, which so often this season has played with so little passion, is playing with huge heart tonight despite all the injuries and adversity. So nice to root for the good guy (rather than a complacent Goliath) once again. GO LAKERS!

  48. Meeks is the worst open shot shooter I have ever seen. Guy is a shooter yet has lowest percent on the entire team at 38%.

  49. Suck it up for a minute, Kobe and Howard! Let’s go!!!

    MDA has to use his timeouts for rest breaks this last minute. Love the camaraderie and conversations between the Lakers.

    Great steal Jodie Meeks. Call timeout MDA to get Kobe a blow.

    Coach get Howard off the floor if we get the ball, go offense defense these last 24 seconds. Please!

  50. LOL, Cousins for 3? Is he Bynum?!


  51. Yes, Blake!!! Good defense and nice rebound.

  52. Ken,

    You have an amazing ability to focus on the only negative you can find…continue to be very troll like. I am sure there must be some kind of job you can find with that amazing ability.

  53. Good defense by Howard defending the 3

  54. Great gut check win. Kobe 47 minutes with injury. Guy is the best ever. Might have saved this season. Big game from Dwight. Franchise performance from him.

  55. great win….many great efforts tonight…very nice.

  56. Great win. Even if this season ends in a flame out, I’m proud to be be a fan tonight

  57. Best “TEAM” victory of the year by far…gutsy!

  58. Go back and read my posts Harvey. I point out the good and the bad. It’s called honesty as a 40 year fan. As for a job, I own companies and hire people who also tell the truth. That is why I am a success.

  59. Missed the game but from the comments, seems like they pulled it through. What happened to Nash, is he injured badly?

  60. But it’s the Sacramento Kings. Lakers are gasping to just make these playoffs.

  61. Guy shoots 5/18 on a night when he passes Wilt Chamberlain and I have to call it just a fantastic performance. The assists, rebounds and the effort in playing so many minutes were just fantastic. Bone spur in his foot no less.

    Loved Dwight’s game tonight as well. Great second effort and hustle all night from the Big Fella!

  62. Sorry but i dont call gutsy being bailed out on the 3 point shot by Cousin, which by the way must had been the stupidest player on the court tonight. I cant call gutsy barely winning against another piece of crap team. I guess thats how far this team has fallen, being proud of barely beating lottery teams.

  63. This might be the best game from dwight howard i seen this season. Hes definitely getting more healthy. Also gasol wasn’t a total liability on defense.

  64. The team deserves credit for coming back after the 1st quarter, and for not going down without a fight.

    Dallas and their .500 beards are here Tuesday.

  65. Robert, I just had a chance to read your 1st post. That is the life!!! So glad that someone can follow and cheer KB for each milestone…Awesome!

    Dwight is slowly getting back to his old self. His game is getting right. Next year, he will come out the gates on fire and put his team on his back.

    Pau was active on defense in the 4th quarter, he made a few mistakes but overall I liked his energy.

  66. James these Kings just beat Clippers, Golden State, Suns and Chicago by 25 the past 5 games. Lead NBA in scoring since All-Star game. They will be tougher then Dallas IMO.

  67. Fern read my post above. These guys are a tough team the past month.

  68. Btw, we are on 9th place bc we could not even secure a series win against another piece of crap team like Utah. Dr Buss must be ashamed wherever he is.

  69. Yeah they tough enough to be 12th in the conference, so that mean they are slighty more terrible than the Lakers which are in 9 place, im sorry i ran out of excuses for this team.

  70. Ken,

    Meeks takes 3 point shots. Thats what he does. Yes he is only shooting 39.6%. But lets take a look at that. He takes 6.7 shots a game and 4.3 are 3 pointers which he hits at a 36.5 clip which is very decent percentage for threes. You are not going to get 50% from a 3 point shooter.

  71. Fern out here trolling hard. But I don’t care. I like when the Lakers win.

  72. Tonight looked a lot like D’Antoni’s offense. 3 stars and the team usually performs better maybe 4 hofers on one team is too much.

  73. In the context of what was going on in the game 1) utah and dallas winning 2) potential of this being the last Laker game @ Sacramento (again) 3) Kobe hobbled and playing the entire game at his age, playing pg, facilitator, playmaker, near triple double, 48 Minutes, 4) nash not being able to go, 5) howard stepping up on both ends (hitting big free throws, 5) our defensive intensity the 2nd half, players stepping up and being aggressive. This was the same team Miami went double OT against….yea GUTSY!

  74. Fern, for a team that lacks depth as much as the Lakers did to begin the season and to win any game while essentially not having 40% of your starting lineup (Metta and Nash) and not having your first big off the bench in Jordan Hill, I think those of us who are tired of negativity would prefer to look at this as a nice win on a night when we were admittedly shorthanded. Bashing people who are trying to stay positive in a season where very little has gone as envisioned just makes you sound like a lottery winner who’s complaining about the taxes he’ll have to pay instead of celebrating.

  75. Shows what a difference turnovers make. When Kobe and Pau’s passing is “on” this is actually a good offensive team. When the passing is “off” they start giving up transition baskets and usually lose.

    Great game for Dwight and Kobe after a slow start. Defense was bad as usual but the Kings were also making some ridiculous shots. Biggest issue was rebounding but that may have been from exhaustion by the end of the game.

    Another “must win” on Tuesday coming up.

  76. Im my 30 years as a Lakers fan i nev

  77. I think all the posters realize the team we have this year will not go far in the playoffs – if they get there. That’s just the way it is, so stop complaining about it.

    We have been continuously injured this year – expected with the age of the players we have. We changed coaches because it became obvious our team wasn’t going to win with M. Brown. It is what it is.

    Now we should be looking at how the remaining players are able to compliment each other, because that will be important in getting players for next year. A game like this shows our weaknesses, but it also shows our strengths. Understanding both those things means Mitch can do something for us over the summer. Let’s just hope the finances don’t make it impossible to add some young players – like trading one of our HOFers for draft picks and getting some to pan out.

  78. Fern,

    Metta and Hill are out. Nash could only go a minute and a half. Kobe played 47 minutes with a bone spur and bad ankle. Pau is still trying to get his conditioning back after missing 7 weeks. Jamision is playing with a torn ligament in his shooting wrist that will require surgery after the season and Howard still is playing with the torn labrum in his shoulder that will also require surgery. I don’t know about you but for me that qualifies as a gutsy win.

  79. Comment did not showed up above but meh why bother rewriting it again.

  80. Sorry uou might call it a gutsy win i call it barely beating another inferior team if the season ends today we are not in rhe playoffs, why?!because of the 15 loses we have against crap teams that we should had beaten healthy or not and those 14 losses on back to back games, i know all about the injury bug but losing against Phoenix, Wizard and Milwakee when the team needed those gimmie wins sorry there is no excuse for that, this team dont deserve to make the playoffs but i will refrain from the negativity and take a wait and see aproach. Lets hope for a miracle