The Lakers will look to win their third straight road game tonight when they take on the Kings at Sleep Train Arena.
LAL will be without Jordan Farmar, who’s out for four weeks after tearing his hamstring in Sunday’s home loss to Portland. That means that Coach Mike D’Antoni has exactly one true point guard to work with, as Steve Nash is still not ready to return. Of course, everyone in the NBA sphere is still awaiting Kobe’s comeback, which we just learned will come Sunday against the Toronto Raptors at home.
While the Lakers’ 4th quarter comeback came up short against suddenly-relevant Portland (16-3) on Sunday, they’ve played well of late. LA has won 5 of 7 behind impressive three-point shooting and balanced scoring- something the team lacked last year. The gigantic disappointment commonly known as the 2012-2013 Lakers shot 35.5% from behind the arc, good enough for 19th in the league. This year’s team, free to fully immerse themselves in D’Antoni’s run-and gun offense without having to patronize a certain #12, is third in the league at 40.9%
The Kings come in losers of 5 straight and are off to the type of disappointing start Kings fans have become accustomed to in recent years at 4-12. They seem to be playing better of late, however; in their last three contests, they gave the Warriors, Thunder, and Clippers (three legit contenders) all they could handle, losing by a combined 8 points. But tonight, they’ll be without their enigmatic star Demarcus Cousins, who made a below-the-belt dig at Derrick Rose when asked if he’d be ready for tonight’s game.
While DMC’s offensive game has evolved nicely, he’s yet to become the defensive anchor that he needs to be for the Kings to see any kind of success. They’re currently 26th in overall team defense and are second-worst in the league at defending the three. Look for LAL to try and expose these defensive weaknesses while still making an effort to get the ball inside- Sacremento’s makeshift frontline of Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams, and Patrick Patterson should have a hard time defending even a less-than-healthy Pau Gasol.
All in all, this is a very winnable game for the Lakers. Sacremento’s record is second-worst in the West, and they’re likely without their best player. If they can get the W tonight, Kobe may return to an above .500 team- something very few thought possible. But this team has bought into D’Antoni and eachother, and their strong- and fun- style of play speaks for itself.