What you need to know: The season records and offensive ratings are pretty meaningless with the Kings, they are a different team since Artest joined them. In the last 10 games they are 8-2 (14-7 since Artest arrived) and they are just half-a-game back of Lakers for the seventh seed. They are half a game ahead of New Orleans for the eighth spot.
Want to watch a repeat? Artest or no, the Lakers beat Sacramento handily at Staples last month in one of their best defensive games of the year. Mike Bibby had 25 points but was 9 of 24 from the field, Artest just 6 of 17. Plus, the Lakers had 10 steals. On the other end, Artest did a decent job on Kobe (he still had 36 points and 10 assists) but the key was Odom was driving the lane, finishing with 19 points, a true shooting percentage of 59.4% and was +21. D. George and Cook also had good outing offensively, knocking down open looks.
One good sign from that game was it was one of Kwameâ€™s best of the year, he finished a +23. Heâ€™s going to have to do that again (and start doing it consistently) with Mihm out.
March Madness: Making sure Mike Bibby doesnâ€™t have a throwback game tonight like it is 1997 and he is wearing an Arizona jersey will be a key.
March Madness Hypothetical: Andrew Bynum was committed to go to UConn before entering the draft and playing for the Lakers. Weâ€™ll see how Bynum looks tonight going against an Olympic team invitee in Miller, but can you imagine how good the Huskies would have been with Bynum getting minutes in the paint? Theyâ€™re already the most talented team in the bracket.
The Other K-Mart: Maybe the most overlooked King player this year is Kevin Martin, but along with Artest he has been a key to turning this season around up in the Capital built on a swamp. (Or at least near one.)
Martin is scoring 16.2 points per 40 minutes at an incredible 62.3% true shooting percentage (think points per shot attempt). That is the second best TS% in the league. He has become a quintessential efficient shooter and a perfect compliment to Bibby in the backcourt.
What Ron-Ron Means To Me, Part II: From the brilliant Sactown Royalty blog yesterday:
Ron Artest Ron Artest Ron Artest. Everything is Artest. Can you blame us? We were staring at Portland Trailblazerdom in December and January. After two weeks of Artest, we still weren’t lighting the league on fire, but we saw the difference it made. We saw B-52 (Brad Miller) getting nasty. We saw Bibby getting open looks. We saw (gulp) K-9 getting loose inside. Kevin’s already growing confidence screamed to the sky. Francisco immediately became Doug Christie II. Rick Adelman showed signs of a pulse. ARCO seemed like someone pumped a couple of Red Bulls into the foundation. The whole city awoke, and the Kings mattered again.
Big Game, Big Keys: This is about as big as it gets in the race out West, and the Lakers go into ARCO where the Kings have won a dozen in a row.
As much as Kobe would like to redeem himself for a poor shooting night against the Sonics, he needs to get other players the ball early and they need to knock down shots. Odom needs to be aggressive and get in the paint. Do those things and Kobe starts to get better looks and the Lakers score plenty.
But itâ€™s not the offense thatâ€™s in question. The Lakers need a big defensive night from Smush and Kwame (and Sasha and Bynum off the bench). They need to stop the penetration and keep Artest from easy post up shots. Play D like they did last time these two met and they can win, play like it is still the Seattle game and it will be ugly. They should be motivated to play a good game, but who knows with this group.
kwame a. says
Phil, might be a nice night to break jj out, maybe give him 15-20 minutes. I think with Mihm out, if Kwame is ineffective, we should go small. I like Bynum, but I’d rather run a lineup with smush,kobe,jj,odom and turiaf. most teams in the west dont have imposing centers and i think turiaf can provide rebounding and interior defense better than Andrew.
Artest said he was gonna “shut Kobe down”, but 4 straight sub-par games by employee number 8 is highly unlikely.
Tom Z. says
It wasn’t a national game, but I hope at least a couple of you caught Artest v. Dirk Sunday night on NBATV or League Pass. Us Kings fans can only hope for such a battle this evening. It was actually one of my favorite moments since the run to Game 7, seeing Ron-Ron utterly handcuff The Dirk down the stretch. (Nowitzki shot 2 for 7 in the fourth, and just 6 for 20 after the end of the first quarter.)
Actually I think Kobe needs a huge game tonight. This is one of those times in a seaon, a career that define players and Kobe needs to step up to the plate. I’m not talking about ball hogging or forgetting the four other guys on the team but Sac will suffer far greater psychological repercussions if Kobe destroys them as opposed to the entire team. Ya I know that doesn’t sound to much like teamplay but this could be him destroying them with assists, defensive plays, or simply being such a threat that he’s triple teamed. Whatever it is he needs to come out and take them to the cleaners. Sure they really aren’t rivals in the true sense of the word but you know that place is gonna be hoppin and they’ll be smell blood. Kobe just needs to serve them theirs….
if lamar could play more like he did those first few minutes, the lakers still might make the playoffs. too bad that won’t happen overnight.
you said you don’t fear utah, and i suppose a look at their game against the heat’s score tonight would support that. any particular reasons why? it’s still jerry sloan’s team, and this one is healthy now.
John R says
Well thanks for all the expert analysis on how Kobe was going to break out tonight. The Tru Kobestopper owned him up and down. Take away the 6 garbage time points and Artest outscored him too. And without the same 2 meaningless shots means Kobe shot 10-26 (a gross 44% TS% if I am doing this right), only got to the line for 3 shots, and dribbled it off his own foot and out of bounds at least once.
And to think, Artest could be on this team right now. 3 cheers for all who said Lamar is untouchable.
I disagree that it doesn’t get bigger than that game out West, but it doesn’t get bigger than that for the Lakers. And with a back-to-back looming, welcome back to .500.
It really looks like we should given up Odom for Artest.
Both Kobe and Lamar had great stats last night. Smush and Kwame did waht they supposed to do. The Lakers need one more piece in the starting lineup and a more dependable bench. A power forward that can score and who plays solid defense is the missing piece. If we could keep Lamar and get KG somehow that would be great. I think this is why Lamar hasn’t been traded. He would make a great tole player on a team that has a legitimate second scoring option. A starting lineup of Smush, Kobe, Lamar, KG, and Kwame looks a lot the Detroit Pistons. Yes, Smush is no Billups. But, I think KG is much better than Rasheed. With some work, Kwame could be made into a Ben Wallace type center. Thiis your team, Mitch, get off your ass and make it happen.
notreally, Artest would be great for this season. But what happens when next season, halfway through, he blows up and gets a lengthy suspension, demands a trade or just becomes a massive distraction? On the court was never the question with him.