The Lakers take on the Kings today, game 4 in a 5 game home stretch that has seen them go 1-2 so far. The good news is, though, that the lone win was the team’s last game and a strong showing vs. the (bad) Hawks which also ended a 9 game losing streak.
That game saw the Lakers finally play well on offense, boosted by a strong performance Brandon Ingram and a great showing by a makeshift bench unit which saw Lonzo, Clarkson, Hart, Kuzma, and Nance play strong defense and then push the ball in transition to get open looks before the Hawks could get set.
One game isn’t a huge sample, but that’s exactly the type of play the Lakers want to get more consistently and I’d be shocked if Luke Walton didn’t turn to that lineup again tonight vs. the Kings to see if they could replicate Sunday’s efforts.
Speaking of the Kings, they could be a bit short handed tonight as George Hill (birth of his child) and Frank Mason (sore heel) could both be out. If both do sit, the Kings will be thin at point guard with only rookie De’Aaron Fox remaining from their normal PG rotation. If things do play out that way, the Kings will need to get ball handling from other sources and it remains to be seen how well they’ll be able to compensate.
The other thing to watch with the Kings is how they’ll attempt to leverage their frontcourt depth and exploit matchups at PF at C. The last time these teams faced off the Zach Randolph exploited Brook Lopez’s defense to the point that it was nearly impossible to put Lopez back in the game. Then the Kings used Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere and their length/athleticism as nice counters to Randolph’s bruising sytle, keeping the Lakers off-balance in the process.
Can the Lakers’ bigs play up to that challenge tonight? Can Lopez hit shots and protect the rim? Can Randle play against the length WCS offers? Can Nance be assertive enough offensively to keep his man honest and not helping so often? If the answers to these questions are yes, the Lakers have a good chance of winning tonight.
Lastly, this is a fairly important game for the Lakers to try to build some positive momentum. The Hawks game was great and I think the players deserve to feel good about how they competed to get the W. But that goes away tonight and the Lakers must bring focus and energy against another team that isn’t that great in their own right. Getting a couple of wins in a row — regardless of how good the opponent is — would be a nice step forward before facing a really good Spurs team on Thursday.
Let’s see if the Lakers have it in them.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet and NBA TV nationally.