The Los Angeles Lakers will try and stay hot on the road tonight as they travel north to play the Sacramento Kings. Kobe Bryant will not be making his season debut while DeMarcus Cousins will be returning from a sprained ankle. The Kings will need his presence inside to battle with Pau Gasol and athletic young forward Jordan Hill.
Lakers point guard Steve Blake is going to have his hands full tonight. With Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar out with injuries, Blake will will have to guard both the taller Greivis Vasquez and red-hot scorer Isaiah Thomas. Vasquez will have a huge size advantage over Blake (too bad he doesn’t have a low post game) so if he can manage to get him in foul trouble the Lakers will not have another true point guard available.
It is going to be fun watching how newly acquired forward Derrick Williams will fit into the roster. The Kings’ starting lineup is huge, going with Williams, Jason Thompson and Cousins (both 6-foot-11). Despite starting tonight at small forward, Williams is definitely not quick enough to play that position night in, night out. Kings head coach Michael Malone must be trying to match the athleticism of the Lakers’ Wesley Johnson, but Johnson has the quickness advantage over the heavier Williams.
If Gasol’s touches in the low-to-mid post are limited, the Lakers do not have a consistent scoring threat. Shooters like Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake are mostly catch and shoot guys, so they’ll need someone to play big inside and earn their shooters some space to operate. The Lakers will probably try and get Chris Kaman some touches on offense since he’s the most capable scorer behind Gasol. Chuck Hayes could come off the bench, and he is sure to make the Lakers’ front court fight tooth and nail for anything inside.
The battle between the two teams’ reserves will end up being the difference in tonight’s game. Lakers reserve Xavier Henry has been scoring in bunches as of late and will be a touch guard for the Kings back court. This will be a challenging defensive assignment for rookie Ben LcLemore and will make for an exciting and athletic matchup. Be sure to tune in and watch the white-out in Sleep Train Arena tonight as the NBA’s most loyal fans take on their southern California rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers.