Lakers Draw Kings in Sacramento

Thanks to Kobe Bryant’s game-tying three-pointer with 4.8 seconds left in regulation of last regular season’s final game (a 116-108 OT victory), the Lakers won last season’s series with Sacramento 3-1 a year after sweeping the 2009-10 season series.

At the time, it wasn’t known if that would be the last game at Power Balance Pavilion, questions abounding about a potential move to Orange County, but the Kings are back in the state’s capital with a young, athletic line up that poses a tough matchup for L.A.

Sacramento split its two preseason games with Golden State, getting most of its scoring on the perimeter with Marcus Thornton (21.0 ppg), rookie Jimmer Fredette (16.5) and Tyreke Evans (16.0), all expected to get significant minutes against Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake and whoever Mike Brown plays behind Bryant (it was Andrew Goudelock on Sunday against Chicago; Jason Kapono is also available).

Up front, the Kings boast an enigmatic talent in DeMarcus Cousins, who’s skilled enough to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and a handful of assists, but also turns the ball over at a high rate (he had nine in his only preseason game) and has poor shot selection (43.2 FG% is extremely low for a big man). JJ Hickson, acquired from Cleveland for Omri Casspi, was solid after the All-Star break by averaging 16.8 points and 10.8 boards, but he struggled defensively with centers and is more of a natural power forward, where Cousins plays. Whether or not Hickson defends Pau Gasol or Josh McRoberts could make a major difference.

The Kings also use Jason Thompson, signed-through-the-amnesty-clause Travis Outlaw, Donte Greene and Tyler Honeycutt in the front court and rookie Isaiah Thomas and John Salmons in the backcourt.

Last season, the Lakers had remarkable success in home/road back-to-backs, going 7-1 on both ends for a 14-2 mark. With the narrow opening day loss to Chicago in the first B2B of 2011-12, L.A. will look to protect the back end of that mark against Sacramento.

Some additional notes on the matchup:
- The two franchises have met 277 times overall and 113 times since the Kings moved to Sacramento. The Lakers lead the all-time series 190-87 (82- 31 vs. Sacramento).
- The Lakers have won nine of their last 10 meetings with Sacramento, and are 9-1 in their last 10 games at Power Balance Pavilion.
- Kobe Bryant posted his 17th career triple-double early last season (11/3/10) while passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the franchise leader for career minutes in a 112-100 Lakers road victory. Bryant has a
career average of 26.7 points vs. the Kings with a high game of 51 points 1/19/06 at Sacramento.
- Kings forward J.J. Hickson played his first two seasons (2008-10) for L.A. Coach Mike Brown in Cleveland.