Game Preview: Lakers take on the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas

The Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason tour rolls on, making its next stop in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they will take on the Sacramento Kings without DeMarcus Cousins tonight (rest).

Las Vegas, of course, was where rookies D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance, Jr., and Anthony Brown played their first games as members of the Lakers, back in July in summer league play.

Sacramento has a handful of new faces, including a point guard that many believed would end up in Los Angeles this summer: Rajon Rondo. Obviously, that never came to fruition as the Lakers acquired Russell with the No. 2 overall pick.

Along with Rondo, some notable names the Kings added to the roster this year are Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli and Caron Butler. With the sixth pick in the draft back in June, Sacramento selected Willie-Cauley Stein, who was Julius Randle’s teammate during the latter’s lone season at the University of Kentucky under John Calipari.

The jury is divided on the expectations for the Kings this season. They definitely have some talent, led by their all-star center, Cousins, but it is unknown just how well the pieces will all fit together. Either way, they are an intriguing team to keep an eye on in the Western Conference.

Matchup to watch: Julius Randle vs. the Kings’ frontline

Sacramento starts a lot of size up front, usually pairing Cousins with either Koufos or Cauley-Stein at center. With Cousins sitting out tonight, it will be interesting to see if coach George Karl elects to stick Koufos or Cauley-Stein on Randle to start out. Either way, there will be two seven-footers awaiting Randle when he looks to attack, so this game will be a great test for him.

Lakers Keys to Victory

Ball Movement: The Lakers did a fantastic job of moving the ball on Sunday, albeit against an outmatched Maccabi Haifa squad. The result was an abundance of open looks, many of which came from the three-point line (14-of-26, 53.8 percent). Although the Kings will provide tougher competition, the Lakers need to maintain the unselfish play and continue to work for good shots.

Run Randle, Run: Assuming the Lakers regularly start Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Kobe Bryant and Roy Hibbert alongside Randle, they will have the luxury of four players that can go get the basketball and bring it up the floor. Everyone knows how much Randle likes to grab a rebound and get up the floor as quickly as possible, and this is a matchup that he needs to emphasize that aspect of his game. With the Kings starting two seven-footers, the best way to exploit their size is to push the tempo and make them constantly have to sprint back on defense.

Randle’s preseason play has greatly exceeded expectations. He has been stellar in several phases of the game, surprising many people along the way. This could prove to be a challenging matchup for him, but another impressive performance could solidify the franchise and fan base’s belief in his abilities now, and down the road.

No Injuries: At the end of the day, this is just a preseason game. By far the most important thing is to get through the game with no injuries and keep everyone healthy. If they are able to manage that, then it is a win regardless of the scoreboard. The Lakers have dealt with a plethora of injuries over the past three seasons, so bucking that trend is obviously a high priority.

Kings projected starting lineup:

PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Darren Collison
SF: Rudy Gay
PF: Willie Cauley-Stein
C: Kosta Koufos

Lakers projected starting lineup:

 Jordan Clarkson
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Anthony Brown
PF: Julius Randle
C: Roy Hibbert

Tip-off scheduled for 7:00 PM, PST on Time Warner Cable SportsNet.

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