The Lakers will look to start moving in the right direction again in Saturday’s bout with the Sacramento Kings at 7:00 PT. Recent poor play, including losses against the Phoenix Suns, Washington Wizards, and Milwaukee Bucks has put their playoff hopes back into jeopardy.
- Metta World Peace – Out. The defensive-minded small forward for the Lakers tore his meniscus in his left knee and is projected to miss about six weeks. In his absence, Jodie Meeks has been promoted to the starting lineup and Earl Clark is seeing increased minutes.
- Kobe Bryant – Probable. Kobe will undoubtedly play in this one despite the bone spur he is suffering from in his left foot. It’s an injury that Bryant says has been bothering him for a while but really “inflamed” on him in the loss against Milwaukee It’ll be interesting to see how it affects him, if it affects him at all.
- Steve Nash – Questionable. Nash was forced to leave the game early against the Bucks with a hip spasm. The veteran point guard said that he wanted to stay in the game, but Lakers trainer Gary Vitti said that it was in Nash’s best interest to stay out. Nash has been playing very well in the last three games, averaging 17.7 PPG and 7.0 APG on 55% shooting in those games.
The Lakers are 85-35 all-time against the Sacramento Kings and are 2-1 against them this season. It may be surprising to know that the Lakers are currently on a three game losing streak when playing against the Kings on the road. History will also be made tonight with Kobe Bryant’s fifth point of the evening. He will move past legendary Wilt Chamberlain into fourth place on the all-time scoring list.
The X-Factor in this match-up is Dwight Howard, the Lakers big man. Howard has been on a tear recently, recording a dozen consecutive double-doubles and is averaging 19 points and 15.2 rebounds per game during that stretch. The biggest thing with Howard is his defense, however. After playing some of his best defense of the season in the few weeks following the all-star break, Howard hasn’t been the same player on the defensive end of the floor in the last week or so. In the loss against the Bucks, they allowed 54 points in the paint. This is especially bad considering that the Bucks score a very high proportion of their points from their perimeter players. Howard needs to be more effective in help defense. He’ll have his work cut out for himself tonight, going against DeMarcus Cousins, the young center for the Kings. Cousins had a career night on Thursday against the Suns and scored 34 points on 12-16 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds as well. If he repeats that kind of performance, it will be difficult for the Lakers to win.
Key to Victory:
The Lakers simply can not let the home crowd get involved in this one. Although the Kings admittedly aren’t a very good team, they are significantly better when playing at Sac-town, having a winning record there. The notoriously rowdy fans there help them frequently get off to a hot start, so the Lakers need to counteract that and get off to a solid start themselves. In home losses this season, the Kings are trailing by an average of 5.65 points per game. In home wins, they are leading by an average of 7.00 points per game. Sacramento is a poor second half team, so jumping on them early can get the fans out of it a little bit and help the Lakers win.
In a high-scoring affair, I expect the Lakers to end the little funk that they’re in and win the game by 117-107. Kobe Bryant is known to play better while injured and Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, and Jimmer Fredette certainly aren’t the best of defenders. He should have a solid game. I’ll predict him to put up 32 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds on above .500 shooting.
My name is Skyler Gilbert. This was just my second post here on Lake Show Life and I hope to write many more. I would encourage you to follow me on twitter @SkylerJGilbert.