The Los Angeles Lakers are finally looking healthy and will test their newfound depth against the Sacramento Kings on Monday. The game, airing on Spectrum Sportsnet at 7:30 PM, will be the first of a long, seven-game road trip for the Purple and Gold. It will also kick off a stretch against relatively weaker competition with their next three games against teams with below .500 records.
The Lakers will be looking to get a huge win to get off their current losing streak. Perhaps the biggest key to a victory will be whether or not the defense can improve. After starting the year surprisingly strong on that end of the floor, the Lakers have steadily become worse, currently holding the dismal honor of being the worst defensive team in the NBA.
No one should expect the defense to become great, overnight. However, there are signs of hope. With D’Angelo Russell back in the fold, albeit on a minutes restriction, the Lakers will have a much more efficient offense than they have had over the past two weeks. That was evident in their loss on Sunday to the New York Knicks despite Russell having a statistically poor game. Nick Young’s return as a perimeter shooter and emergency playmaker will also be crucial in that regard.
Ideally, a more efficient offense leads to fewer turnovers and better shot selection, which in turn will give the opposition far fewer easy opportunities for scoring on the other end.
The Lakers will have their hands full, however, with DeMarcus Cousins who still mans the inside as one of the most talented centers in the NBA. Making Cousins uncomfortable and inefficient without having to double-team him (and in turn give up three-point opportunities to perimeter shooters) will be a huge indicator of any success the Lakers have. That means that veteran center Timofey Mozgov will have to have a strong game defensively, which he is more than capable of.