The Lakers take on the Kings tonight and, after an unfortunate toe injury in his debut vs. the Bucks on Wednesday, Andre Drummond will not play. With Drummond out, we’re about to see the same Lakers we’ve seen since Gasol returned from COVID, which will be a useful group, but one that will be offensively challenged and could face some defensive issues too.
The latter could be especially true tonight against a dynamic Kings team that has been playing much better of late, winning 7 of their last 9 games. The insertion of rookie Tyrese Haliburton into the starting lineup gives Sacramento another ball handler, passer, and versatile scoring option to flank an already strong scoring group led by De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. Add in Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes and this group is a nice mix of long range shooting and individual shot creation that can be difficult to load up on in the halfcourt and that really thrives in transition.
In saying all that, this is a winnable game for the Lakers. The Kings, are surely talented, but this diminished version of the Lakers can matchup with them at some key spots. Schröder can be a good matchup vs. Fox where Dennis’ quickness and defensive toughness should allow him to hold up on that end, KCP is a good chaser around and off screens to stick with Hield, Kuz has size and defensive ability to play well vs. Haliburton, and Gasol’s defensive smarts and instincts should serve him well vs. Holmes.
Where things could get trickier is on the other end of the floor where, even though the Kings aren’t a great defense, the Lakers offensive struggles are just out there looming. The Lakers will have to hit outside shots, allowing them to get more space for Trez and Dennis and THT to get into the paint to score. If the Lakers cannot hit from the outside, the Kings will simply double and triple down on packing the paint, making those interior chances tougher and limiting efficiency.
If there’s a single player I’ll be watching intently tonight, it’s THT. He had a particularly rough game against the Bucks, turning the ball over in bunches and never getting into his groove as he was continuously thwarted on his drives into the paint. If Whiteside does not play, the Kings 2nd unit does not offer a lot of size and THT could end up having an easier go of it once he gets into the lane. It’d be nice if THT could get it going some tonight, the Lakers could really use the lift he provides when he’s generating good shots in the paint.
The Lakers schedule is about to get fairly difficult, with a game against the Clippers springboarding them into a bunch of eastern road games that include games against the resurgent Knicks, the Nets, and the Heat. In other words, the games that even seem somewhat winnable take on an even greater importance and tonight’s game, even if the Kings have been playing better, represents one such chance.
Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on Spectrum SportsNet.