Kings: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Damian Jones
Lakers: Russell Westbrook, Malik Monk, Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, LeBron James
Kings: Terrence Davis (questionable); Out due to Health & Safety Protocols: Richaun Holmes, Chimezie
Lakers: LeBron James (probable); Avery Bradley (probable); Anthony Davis (out); Kendrick Nunn (out)
This is an important week for the Lakers. They have 3 games, starting tonight vs. the Kings, and a chance to really get some momentum going. They’ve won 3 of their last 4 coming into tonight and a 2-1 or a 3-0 week would do wonders for them, not only in terms of establishing a rhythm, but in helping with the standings. The Lakers are currently only a half-game out of the 5th seed and are within shouting distance (5 games back in the loss column) of the 4th seeded Grizzlies — a team who, coincidentally, is on the docket this week. Making a little push here would be nice.
In saying that, the Kings are also surely watching the standings and are cognizant of their own pursuit of the best seed they can get in the hopes of snagging a playoff berth. They’ve also been frisky of late, themselves winning 3 of 4, including two close ones over the Mavs and the Heat. They’re down a couple of big men, and they’ll surely miss Richaun Holmes tonight — particularly because he’s such a good P&R partner for their guards and is good on the glass. But, this team is still built around their guards and on any given night Fox, Haliburton, and/or Hield can all explode for big numbers. Haliburton has been especially impressive of late, particularly as a distributor, racking up double digit assists in 8 of his last 9 games.
On the Lakers side, I’m very interested to see how the team’s rotation shakes out tonight. With Stanley Johnson’s 10-day contract expiring on Monday, Frank Vogel has some decisions to make in terms of who starts and, related, whether he wants to continue to play small for the entirety of the game. In terms of the starting group, the choices are very likely either Ariza or THT sliding into the spot Johnson was taking. If he chooses THT, that could signal the team will continue to play small, with the Melo/Ariza duo manning the PF/C spots when Bron is out of the game.
However, if Vogel starts Ariza, that could open the door for Dwight to play some minutes and return to his bench big role when Bron rests. If it were me, this would be my choice, particularly because the matchups line up that way with Alex Len and/or Tristan Thompson the Kings backups. Len isn’t the most fleet of foot guy, but he’s a capable post scorer who can also work the offensive boards. Thompson, meanwhile, isn’t the player he once was, but he can still really hurt small lineups on the offensive glass. Neither are floor spacers (Len can shoot it okay, but takes fewer than one 3 per game), which makes for pretty good circumstances for Dwight to get some run tonight.
We’ll see what Vogel decides, of course, especially in the wake of his comments after the win over the Wolves where he was adamant about sticking with the small lineups even when they struggled some on the glass.
Beyond the lineup questions and how those shakeout, the thing I’ll be looking for tonight is to see if Russ can have a big game. In the two previous games between these two teams, Russ scored 29 and 23 points while hitting nearly 50% of his shots from the floor (19-39 over the two games). These aren’t elite numbers by any means, but the Kings don’t really have that physical guard to put on him in their starting lineup and he should be able to find ways to get into the paint on that end. If he can finish well once there, and create good shots for himself and teammates, it would got a long way towards getting his team a needed W. Not to mention, it would help supplement Bron in ways that he could really use after the run he’s been on lately.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm on Spectrum SportsNet and NBA TV.