The last time the Lakers were in action was on Monday when they were blown out by the Phoenix Suns. Everyone pretty much sat down for that game and it felt like a throwaway contest.
The Lakers move on to Wednesday and face the Sacramento Kings. They have faced the Kings before and it was the final game of their awful 12-game start. De’Aaron Fox made the Lakers crumble at the end and helped Sactown give them a 2-10 record. L.A. didn’t score in the last two minutes of that game.
The Kings are currently 6th in the Western Conference standings. But it’s so competitive right now that they’re only 2 1/2 games behind the top-seeded Denver Nuggets (wait, didn’t the Lakers beat them?!). Sacramento continues to light it up offensively as they are 6th in offensive rating, scoring 114.7 points per 100 possessions.
That offense might be a little affected, though. Two of their starters, Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes, are listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game. Sabonis is 8th in most points per game in the painted area (Anthony Davis is tops in this category). The son of Arvydas is also third in rebounding with 12.1 boards per game (Davis is second in that category). Barnes is a veteran that has championship experience with the Warriors; he’s averaging 13.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per.
The Lakers are likely to have LeBron James back as he is listed as probable. He did not play in their first game against the Kings. However, Austin Reaves is doubtful and Russell Westbrook is questionable. So the Lakers might be shorthanded once again (we know Davis is out for a while). But it sure helps to have LeBron James back.
For all intents and purposes, the Lakers didn’t play bad against the Kings in their first game. But the main glaring problems were Anthony Davis’s disappearing act (which happened quite a bit early in the season) and late-game execution. Davis won’t be available so they’ll have to rely on moving the ball and not get bogged down by isolation plays. Get the offense moving instead of being stuck in the mud.
De’Aaron Fox ran all over them, especially late in the game. Might be useful to contain him better than they did previously. Also, Kevin Huerter got going early. He’s slowed down a bit on his three-point shooting but he’s still making .411 of his threes. Somebody watch him.
On a side note, I understand that the Lakers have played 30 games in the season and that the halfway point is coming up fast. We know about the roster construction of the team and it’s been pilloried all over the place. They need shooters (still 27th in three-point percentage). They need wing defenders. They need more capable big men. And while top-heavy, we know Westbrook was a bad fit (though he’s played better as a 6th man) and that some of the Laker players are fringe NBA players.
I abhor tanking but they can’t even do that because the New Orleans Pelicans have the right to swap picks with the Lakers for this upcoming draft in the Anthony Davis deal. So if, for some reason, the Lakers get the first pick this summer, the Pelicans can say, “Okay, we’ll take that pick and give you ours.” So they have to keep winning. Besides, why would you waste seasons where you have Anthony Davis and (especially) LeBron James on your team?
I don’t know what deals the Lakers are going to make, if they are at all. All Lakers fans can do is hope that they can make a run for a play-in/playoff spot. And then, with LeBron and a healthy Davis in the playoffs, anything can happen. They were deemed the most dangerous 7th seed in 2021 and even led the Suns, 2-1, in the series before Davis went down with an injury.
But if they want to make a run at this, they’ll have to win games. They have the Kings on Wednesday and while 13-17 looks bleak, they’re still only 3 1/2 games behind that Sacramento team.
So stop De’Aaron Fox. Execute well, especially late in the game. And defend like they did in the first few weeks of the season. We know they’re capable of it. Even if the roster of this team isn’t ideal. Don’t let Sacramento light the beam.