The Los Angeles Lakers have the opportunity to send an early message against the Sacramento Kings.
Heavyweights collide in the Western Conference as the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Sacramento Kings in an early season test. Both squads come into this matchup with the hopes that they can get off to a fast start.
The Lakers are coming off a marquee victory against the Phoenix Suns while the Kings are looking to bounce back as they suffered a loss to the Golden State Warriors. The fight for supremacy begins in the West as this is the first of four games between them this season.
Los Angeles Lakers primer
The Lakers are 1-1 on the season and will have to prepare for another early season test as they face off against the Sacramento Kings. After the loss to the Denver Nuggets on opening night, Anthony Davis was highly criticized for failing to score a single point in the second half of that game. It must be taken into consideration that the Lakers were playing against the defending NBA champions and Davis did have his hands full having to guard arguably the best player on the planet in Nikola Jokic and being asked to carry the team.
That is a lot on anyone’s plate but Davis redeemed himself against the Suns as he scored a total of 30 points with 13 of them coming in the 4th quarter as the Lakers defeated the Suns 100-95. Davis may have his hands full again as he will likely have to guard Domantas Sabonis who plays similarly to Nikola Jokic but at a much faster pace. Davis has played well against Sabonis during his career as he averages 26 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in six games.
The last time these two players saw each other was last November but the Kings as a whole and Sabonis have improved dramatically since then. However, Davis is 0-6 against Sabonis in his career and he would like to change that as the Lakers go for their second win of the season. It was also planned that LeBron James would not be playing as many minutes as he did last season but the Lakers have no other candidate other than Davis to close out games.
James is averaging 32 minutes in the two games he played in and his plus/minus is a (+29) when he is on the floor. Whenever James was the primary ball handler in both of the Lakers’ games in the fourth quarter, the Lakers’ offense was at its most efficient. D’Angelo Russell will have to do a better job whenever James goes to the bench. The offense became stagnant as the Lakers struggled to move the ball and couldn’t get any open looks.
The truth of the matter is that James may have to play more minutes than they planned if this happens to be a close game. The reason for the Lakers offseason haul was to create enough depth to limit James’s regular season minutes in an attempt to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Austin Reaves, Rui Hachimura, and Christian Wood have to step up and prove that they can win without James being the focal point.
All of them have the ability to take charge but who will be bold enough to fill that role?
Sacramento Kings primer
The Kings come into this game fresh off a loss to the Warriors and they hope to bounce back against the Lakers. De’Aaron Fox has developed into one of the top players at his position and could give Russell fits on the offensive end. He averages 25.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in games against Russell and Fox is capable of filling it up quickly if he gets off to a fast start.
Russell has held his own against Fox whenever he is given the go-ahead to attack. He averages 23 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 7.8 assists in games versus Fox and he has also been victorious in seven of the 11 games they have faced each other. Kings head coach Mike Brown has played a lot of 3-guard lineups primarily with Fox, Davion Mitchell, and Malik Monk and the results have been good.
A 3-guard lineup could prove to be effective against the Lakers’ defense. They struggle to guard teams who have fluid ball movement and the Kings don’t mind sharing the ball as they are top in the NBA in assists. It’s still early in the season but JaVale McGee has proven to be a great pickup for the Kings. He is a great shot blocker, he excels in the pick and roll, he’s a decent passer, and a solid finisher at the rim.
He also brings veteran experience as a player who has won multiple championships. McGee could be valuable if he can keep the Lakers out of the paint and the Kings could also allow him to enter the game and try to tire and wear Davis down. Davis will be depended on to deliver in the 4th quarter, and if McGee can give the Kings at least 10 minutes of being physical and active while bodying him up, it may prove to be helpful in the 4th quarter.
A victory for the Kings would go a long way as they will try and continue to become a major factor in a stacked Western Conference.
Will the Los Angeles Lakers be able to keep up with the fast-paced Sacramento Kings? Who will step up for the Lakers when Davis and James go to the bench? Expect the Kings to take advantage of the Lakers’ second unit as they continue to build their team confidence.
Expect Fox and Sabonis to outplay the Lakers duo of Davis and James in another close game that should go down to the wire.