Apr 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Nick Young (0) guards Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams (25) during the second half of the game at Staples Center. Trail Blazers won 124-112. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Game 75 Preview: Lakers vs. Kings

After last night’s loss to Portland, Mike D’antoni spoke extensively about the lack of foot speed when Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol were on the court together. As much as D’antoni dislikes post players- this was his personal nightmare, two in the game at the same time- it was not the Lakers big men that were the glaring problem. It was the guards who are the worst in the Western Conference. No one on the Lakers could stop Damien Lillard. Kendall Marshall is too slow. And Steve Nash is too old. Speaking of Nash. Something always happens to the forty year old. But before his papery body went crashing to the floor he was doing Steve Nash things. There were behind the back passes and pick and roll slash dribbles and cross the court tosses. He dribbled the ball in and out the paint the only way Steve Nash, the magician, can do. And then back to reality. Nash goes flying to the floor. He sprains his ankle. Nash is always going to suffer contact, he plays a very physical style of point guard play. Everything has velocity, even his body. Last night it was one more chance against Damien Lillard. As a rookie Lillard began all of this Nash broken body injury curse. Contact with Lillard in November of 2012 began the runaway injury train. So of course something was bound to happen when Nash faced Lillard again. But Nash won’t play tonight, not on the second night of a back to back.

The Kings aren’t making the playoffs. This is their eighth straight year in the lottery. Their previous lottery picks have been: Spencer Hawes (traded twice), Jason Thompson, Tyreke Evans (traded), DeMarcus Cousins, Bismack Biyambo (traded), Thomas Robinson (traded twice), Ben McLemore. As bad as that is the Kings have three starters who average 20 points a game. They are the fifth best offensive rebounding team in the NBA and they don’t allow their opponents offensive rebounds. They are third in free throw attempts. Their motor is Isaiah Thomas, the last draft pick in the 2011 draft, a player the Lakers could have had. Instead the Lakers chose Andrew Goudelock who is currently playing in Europe. The Lakers have been in point guard hell ever since. Isaiah is a quick point guard who gets into the paint and finishes at the rim. He has quick hands and the Lakers are last in the NBA in preventing steals. The Lakers will try to deter Isaiah with Kendall Marshall (this is where you laugh) or Jodie Meeks. None of the Lakers bigs can deter Isaiah at the rim. The Lakers best chance is if Isaiah is still sitting out because of a right quad contusion. They won’t have to deal with his 20 points and 6 assists. Then the Kings will start Ray McCollum at point guard who is, at best, average. In a game last week against the Knicks, McCollum had a stretch when he was 0-9. DeMarcus Cousins maturity is a work in progress but his game is not. He hits the mid range, he can drive to the rim, he rebounds, he plays with passion. He is a 20-10 player this year and he averages six assists which is a career high. He patterns his game after Pau Gasol, that is who DeMarcus admires. Let’s hope so. Last night Gasol looked like a ghost. Everything about him was slow. Chris Kaman played hard but he doesn’t have the athleticism to keep Cousins from a double-double. His best opportunity is to make Cousins play defense and get into foul trouble. DeMarcus has a lot of bad habits. He plays defense with his hands instead of his feet in much the same way Dwight Howard does. He reaches in and tries to slap the ball away from a defender. On offense DeMarcus is weak at the rim. He is only shooting 46% on the season. DeMarcus doesn’t particularly like contact. It brings out the worst in him and he whines. Rudy Gay doesn’t whine but he is Rudy Gay, the most underachieving player in the NBA. He should be an All-Star ever year. He is long, athletic, he changes directions well, he just takes terrible shots and he wilts in the big moments and he doesn’t play hard. But he is Rudy Gay so he’ll play well tonight. Since coming over to the Kings from Toronto (how is it possible that Rudy Gay has been traded twice?) he has modified his shot selection to all things midrange and is shooting 48% and averaging 20 points. Like so many non playoff players Rudy is in audition mode. He can opt out and may find his way on the Lakers if he is willing to take a huge pay cut. Rudy should feast tonight on the Lakers missing in action defense.

As for the Lakers. Nick Young had a 40 point game last night. There was a point in the game in which he was 8-8 and for the next two and a half minutes his teammates did not give him the ball, did not even look his way. That is why the Lakers are the team they are. The question is what can they get from Nick tonight? Most of the shots that went in and that he celebrated in his Swaggy P way were shots that would have been misses on any other night. They were very low percentage heaves but he was hot so…why not? Nick’s problem is that he doesn’t know the difference between a bad shot on a night when he is feeling it and a bad shot any other time. He shoots the same shots regardless. Xavier Henry was a no show against Portland. He had 0 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists. Kent Bazemore had a solid performance but he will be guarded by Rudy Gay who is much longer and just as athletic and Bazemore is going to have to guard Rudy. Good luck.

The Lakers have shown zero interest in beating terrible teams. Of the non playoff teams they have faced they have lost to the Knicks, the Cavaliers, the Magic, the 76ers, the Bucks (twice), the Jazz, the Timberwolves (three times), the Pelicans, the Nuggets (three times), the Jazz. The only lottery team they have not lost to have been the Kings. They’ve beaten them three times. Can they make it four? Or will this be loss number 50?

 

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