Lakers – Kings Sideline Notes

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles LakersHere’s a look at everything you need to know about the Lakers (6-7) and their Sunday evening opponent, the Sacramento Kings (4-8):

KINGS NOTES
- Carl Landry is out with a tear of the left hip flexor muscle; rookie Ray McCallum was assigned to the Reno Bighorns.
- DeMarcus Cousins has been terrific this season, and is the only player in the NBA to lead his team in scoring (21.5 ppg on 46.4% FG’s), rebounding (9.9), steals (1.8) and blocks (1.4). He went off for 23 points, 19 rebounds, 7 assists and a steal in the narrow loss to the Clippers last night.
- SAC turns the ball over the fewest number of times per game, surprisingly, at (12.8); LAL are 15th (15.6).
- Isaiah Thomas is ranked second in NBA in bench scoring (18.4 ppg), trailing only NOP’s Ryan Anderson (19.3). Nick Young is third at 17.1 ppg (4th). Thomas also ranks first in NBA in fourth-quarter scoring (8.8 ppg, including 14 in the 4th Q against the Clippers on Saturday afternoon). The next 3 in 4th Q scoring: 2) Ryan Anderson (8.3 ppg); 3. Kyrie Irving (8.3 ppg); 4. Kevin Durant (8.2 ppg).
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was a college teammate at UCLA with Jordan Farmar (2005-06).
- Patrick Patterson scored 21 points off the bench on Sunday, with starter Jason Thompson playing only 10 minutes to PP’s 32.
- Greivis Vasquez has struggled some this season after a breakout 2012-13, reaching a new low with just 2 points and 2 assists in 15 minutes against the Clips. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 5.4 assists on the season, down from 13.9 and 9.0 in New Orleans last season.

LAKERS ARE THE LAST TEAM TO GET AN OPPONENT ON A B2B
For the first time this season, the Lakers will draw an opposing team that’s on the second game of a back-to-back. Every other team has been in that situation at least one time, making the Lakers the last squad to gain what’s typically an advantage, as the Kings lost a tight one to the Clippers (103-102) on Saturday afternoon.

According to NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, the average team drew an opponent on a back to back 19 times. The Lakers tied with the Spurs for the fewest, with just 12. Why? Likely a combination of number of times on national TV and having most weekend games on Sunday instead of Saturday (since most teams play Friday).

WHY L.A.’s 6-7 RECORD (WITHOUT KOBE) LOOKS BETTER
The average winning percentage of teams the Lakers have faced thus far is 59.2%, which ranks behind only the Memphis Grizzlies (60.3%) for having the league’s toughest schedule. Thus far, 12 of L.A.’s 13 opponents have been .500 or better, the 4-8 Detroit Pistons serving as the exception.

YET AND STILL … LAKERS ARE 13th in the CRAZY DEEP WEST
Only Sacramento (4-8) and Utah (1-13) have worse records than LAL’s 6-7 in the West, with the Suns, Pelicans and Nuggets all at 6-6 and every other team above .500. If the Lakers were in the East, they’d be sitting in the 7th playoff spot.

DOUBLE-DOUBLING:
In the last 5 games, three Lakers are averaging double doubles:

Pau Gasol: 17.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 3.8 apg
Jordan Hill: 17.0 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg
Steve Blake: 10.4 ppg, 10.4 apg, 3.4 rpg

THE LATEST KOBE BRYANT INFO
After going full speed at practice on consecutive days (Tuesday and Wednesday), Kobe Bryant took Thursday off to recover, before returning to the court on Saturday to work out on his own. Mike D’Antoni told me that Bryant went through his own workout at the team’s facility before heading to the training room to do some further rehabilitation and management with the training staff (head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto in particular).

“(Bryant) will amp it up as much as he needs to,” D’Antoni explained. “It’s not soreness of the Achilles, just general soreness. He hadn’t played since April and he went hard, and you just feel sore and sluggish. It’s a normal thing. He didn’t have to back off because of injury.”

Bryant had previously acknowledged the possibility of returning in November, which leaves the 26th, 27th and 29th (a three-game trip through D.C., Brooklyn and Detroit), but that’s by no means a prediction as to his actual first game action.

LAKERS IMPROVEMENT ON DEFENSE CONTINUES
Since Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson entered the starting line up, the Lakers are playing considerably better on the defensive end:

First eight games: 106.5 ppg, 46.4% FG’s, 40.2% 3-PT FG’s
Last five games: 97.8 ppg, 42.7% FG’s, 30.3% 3-PT FG’s

Here’s what Mike D’Antoni said: “Guys are starting to get into rotations and how we do things without thinking so much that it becomes a habit, and that way you can react quicker and they react quicker to the ball and different situations. As a young team, that takes time, but it’s starting to settle in a little bit.”

RELATED: LAKERS ACTUALLY UP IN DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY
LAL are up to 15th in defensive efficiency, not terrible considering their rough schedule. They were 18th last year with Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. On the other hand, The Lakers were 8th in offensive efficiency last year thanks in no small part to Kobe’s outstanding offensive season. This year, they’re only 21st through 13 games.

LAKERS BOMBING THREES, MAKING 2nd MOST IN NBA W/5th BEST %
After draining 11 more triples against the Warriors, the Lakers are up to 5th in the NBA in 3-point percentage, hitting 41.0% on the young season, way up from their 35.2% mark in 2012-13 (20th in the NBA). They’re also making more than any other team but Golden State, connecting on 10.2 per game. Jodie Meeks ranks 10th in the NBA in 3-PT FGM (32), and Steve Blake ranks 15th (28). At 48.5%, Meeks ranks 14th in the NBA in accuracy, while Blake’s 47.5% puts him at No. 23. Below is a shot chart of the team’s efficiency from beyond the arc, courtesy of NBA.com/stats. blog_131124lakersthrees

JORDAN HILL EXCELLING AS A STARTER
In his five games as a starter Jordan Hill is averaging 17.0 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on 59.6% FG’s and 89.5% FT’s, earning walk off interviews in two of the last three home games. His minutes increased from 16.1 (first eight games) to 31.2. He posted career-highs of 24 points and 17 boards in last Sunday’s win over Detroit. Hill ranks second behind only Detroit’s Andre Drummond in field goal percentage this season at 60.9%.

Here’s what Kobe Bryant said about Hill: “Tremendous. He really worked hard this summer and got himself into good shape, shed some weight; he’s extremely strong, (has) long arms, athletic. He has a knack for the ball and is great around the rim. He has a great touch on the low post and a great touch on the perimeter. He’s been a pleasant surprise.”

YOUNG CONTINUES TO SHINE OFF THE PINE
When coming off the pine, Nick Young is averaging 17.1 points per game, which ranks third behind only SAC’s Isaiah Thomas (18.4 ppg) and NOP’s Ryan Anderson (19.3 in two games). As a reserve, Young is shooting 52.3%, compared with 33.3% as a reserve, and is hitting 40.0% from three compared with 23.5% as a starter:

STARTS (6): 21.5 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 0.5 apg, 0.7 spg, 33.3% FG’s, 23.5% 3’s
BENCH (7): 26.9 mpg, 17.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 52.3% FG’s, 40.0% 3’s

Perhaps related: Young’s taking better shots, closer to the hoop, taking 6 percent more shots in the paint in his last five games. He also said he heard Rihanna shout “Swaggy P” during Friday’s win over GSW, which is nice.