How good are the 3-1 Sacramento Kings?
Heading into Wednesday night’s Lakers – Kings matchup in the state capitol, here’s a look at the Kings’ first four results:
Oct. 27: 117-116 W @ Minnesota
Oct. 29: 100-106 L @ New Jersey
Oct. 30: 107-104 W @ Cleveland
Nov. 1: 111-108 W vs. Toronto
Sacramento’s games have been decided by a total of only 13 points, which happens to be just .25 under the average number of points by which the Lakers (4-0) have defeated their four opponents. Oddly, the Kings have fallen behind by double digits early in each of their three wins before second half rallies for victories. In fact, they trailed by as many as 16 against Cleveland, and 17 against Toronto before clamping down defensively in the second half.
But with Beno Udrih and Tyreke Evans running offense on the perimeter, Omri Casspi or Francisco Garcia hitting shots on the wing and some combination of big men DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert and Carl Landry getting it done in the paint, the Kings have opened with their best early record since the start of the 2003-04 season.
Evans, the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year, is averaging 20.7 points, 6.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds in his three games after missing the opener (suspension), while 2010-11 R.O.Y. candidate Cousins is averaging 14 points and 6.5 boards in limited minutes primarily due to foul trouble.
Yet it’s been a balanced attack, as four other players – Landry, Udrih, Caspi and Garcia – are all averaging double figure points as well for a team scoring the third most points in the NBA at 108.8 per game. The latter two players have drained a collective 15 of 30 three-pointers to effectively spread the floor.
But the difference between the Kings and Lakers, despite Sacramento’s three wins, has been on defense. The Kings are allowing 108.5 points per game, while the Lakers are holding opponents to 101.0 while scoring a league-best 114.3.
Of course, there’s nothing the Kings would rather do than end L.A.’s perfect early record on the team’s first back-to-back of the season. Directly after their stirring comeback win over Toronto in which they outscored the Raptors 60-46 in the second half, Kings fans were reportedly chanting “Beat L.A.” at ARCO Arena.
Despite how difficult it can be to play in ARCO, however, the Lakers have won seven of the last eight games played in the state capital, and are looking for another behind what’s been a deadly combination of Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant on offense and a very-much-improved bench led by newcomers Steve Blake and Matt Barnes.
Tip off is at 7:30 P.M. on KCAL/9, 710 ESPN radio and ESPN.