The Los Angeles Lakers are currently one of the hottest teams in the National Basketball Association. They have won four straight games and have not lost in the year of our Dear Lord 2023.
I wouldn’t say it’s easy competition, either. The streak includes Atlanta twice, a game Miami Heat squad, and the upset-minded Charlotte Hornets (who they had lost to before, by the way). I’ve said it before but this is a wacky season. Every team seems to be going through their own rough patch this season and there seems to be no clear favorite. And now this gives the Lakers a chance to sneak up the standings.
Standing in the way on Saturday night is the Sacramento Kings. It’s a team that has beaten them twice this season already so you know the Lakers have revenge on their minds. In the first game, the Lakers had a late meltdown and De’Aaron Fox took over in the closing moments. In the second game, the Lakers simply didn’t have enough firepower and the Kings scored back-to-back 40-point quarters to overwhelm them.
On the surface, they may not have enough ammo for Saturday, either. Anthony Davis is obviously out but we learned on Friday that Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV will be out for the next couple of weeks. And since they’re on a back-to-back, there’s a chance LeBron will sit this one out. The official injury report has not been released as of this writing.
However, we’ve seen multiple Lakers step up on this winning streak. Dennis Schröder is averaging 26.5 points and shooting .517 from the field (.600 from three!) in his last two games. Russell Westbrook is averaging close to a triple-double (19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 2.5 steals) in those same two games. Thomas Bryant has been something in this four-game winning streak, putting in 19.3 points, getting 13.5 boards, and shooting .680 from the floor in that span. Hell, Kendrick Nunn scored a season-high 23 points against the Hawks on Friday.
The Lakers have certainly looked like a very good NBA team, especially compared to when they lost to Sactown the first time when that loss brought them down to 2-10.
As for the Kings, they’ve gone 3-2 in their last five. All three wins have been one-possession games (including a win against Denver!) while their last game was a three-point loss to the same Atlanta Hawks team that the Lakers just beat twice in the last week. Like I said, this is a weird season.
Sacramento is still a high-powered offense as they are currently in the Top 5 in offensive rating (a juicy 115.1 points per 100 possessions) and second in points per game. Their defense is still leaky (24th in defensive rating) but they’re still 5th in the West standings despite that. The Kings have been about outscoring their opposition this season and they have the players to do it.
The Kings have 6 players averaging in double figures. We’ve seen De’Aaron Fox do some damage. Domantas Sabonis had a triple-double in their second game against the Lakers. Kevin Huerter led them in scoring in that same game. Rookie sensation Keegan Murray and veteran Harrison Barnes also scored 20 or more in that contest. So they can rain on them fools.
It’s up to the Lakers to try to hold them down. The Lakers have been better at defending during this winning streak (allowing 108.8 points per 100 possessions in the last week, which would be good for 6th in that span). If we can get the same energy, ball movement, and multiple players engaged and involved, the Lakers have a good chance of stealing this one from the Kings.
The big worry for me is turnovers. In that win streak, they’ve turned the ball over an average of 16.5. It goes without saying that they’ll have a better chance at winning if they take care of the ball. Again, the Kings aren’t the greatest defensive team in the league. L.A. just can’t be reckless with their possessions.
Like I said, the Kings are 5th in the Western Conference standings. But their record actually isn’t that much better than the 12th-seeded Lakers. Sacramento is 20-17 while L.A. is at 18-21. They’re only three games apart and a Laker win can really muddy up the standings.
So go ahead and get dirty, Lakers.