The Lakers are seeking their first win of the 2015-16 season against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena on Friday after blowing a 16 point lead to the Timberwolves on opening night. The Kings faced the Clippers in their season opener where they fought back from a large deficit, but fell short of a comeback, losing 111-104. Here are the interesting storylines to look for before the Lakers face the Kings in Sacramento.
D’Angelo Russell vs. Rajon Rondo:
D’Angelo Russell struggled on Wednesday against the Timberwolves shooting poorly from the field (2-7) and could never find a nice rhythm throughout the game. He didn’t play a single minute in the fourth quarter. Although it was a poor performance, Russell seemed poised and was self-critical after the game “”I get caught up in doing the right thing instead of just playing and that’s something I’ve got to adjust with experience.” One point guard who has a lot of NBA experience is Rajon Rondo. We like to make fun of Rondo’s inefficiency on offense, but he is a known pest on the defensive side. Russell has to be careful and smart when playing Rondo because the latter will do his best to get under the rookie’s skin. Russell is still yet to have one of those breakout performances, hopefully he will do it against the Kings so most “fans” can stop calling him a bust. Russell will be playing more of the point position and handling the ball a lot of more on Friday where he feels most comfortable with so I look forward for him to have a solid game.
Which Kobe will we see?
After a quiet, efficient preseason from Kobe, he came out like a madman taking, and missing, a lot of shots. At one point Kobe shot 8-16 from the field, but he missed his last 8 attempts. We saw some vintage Kobe during the game but most of the time the offense stopped when the ball was in his hands. We didn’t see much of him facilitating for the offense, instead we saw a lot of isolations and stagnant off-ball movement from the team. Maybe Kobe was just trying to assert himself and find a rhythm to start the season or maybe he wanted to give us a memorable game for what it seemed like to be his last opener, regardless, I hope Kobe can settle down and start facilitating the offense a little more. There are four qualified ball handlers on the court with Kobe, there is no reason for him to be dominating the ball much of the time. Kobe is a great passer and playmaker, maybe we will see more of that against the Kings.
Roy Hibbert vs DMC
This will be another interesting matchup to look for. Hibbert has been one of the most efficient and steady Lakers so far. He has been solid on the defensive end and will face his toughest test yet against arguably the league’s most dominant center in DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins had a monster game against the Clippers scoring 32 points (10-21) and grabbing 13 rebounds in the process. Cousins also made four 3-pointers in five attempts, which is freaking terrifying. If Hibbert wants to solidify himself as a great defensive anchor, going up against Cousins will be a great opportunity to prove it.
The bench duo
The Lakers’ bench was terrific for most of the game. They sparked and gave energy to the offense. The duo of Nick Young and Lou Williams combined for 35 points, shooting 11-22 from the field and 8-14 from deep. I don’t expect them to be shooting this well for 81 more games, but if one of them can get going, the Lakers’ bench will offer a great threat throughout the game. Aside from those two players off the bench, the Lakers would need a few more reserves to step up. Ryan Kelly and Brandon Bass shot a combined (2-9) from the field totaling five points in the season opener, and will have to do better on both ends of the floor.
Former Kentucky Wildcats facing off against each other
Julius Randle had a solid performance in his second official NBA game recording his first double-double game with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Randle will be playing against former teammate at the University of Kentucky Willie Cauley-Stein. It will be interesting to see if Randle can have a successful game against a long and athletic Cauley-Stein.
Better defense and offense:
Hopefully, we will see more ball movement from the Lakers rather than Kobe isolations and stagnant offense. The Kings have some offensive punch with DMC and Rudy Gay along with the addition of dead-eye shooter Marco Belinelli. If the Lakers play defense the way they did against the Timberwolves, then it will be a tough night for them.
Where to watch:
The Lakers will tip off against the Kings on Friday at 7:00 pm pacific time on TWC Sports Net.