Two Pacific Division foes go head-to-head Friday night in Hollywood, as the Los Angeles Lakers (9-2, first in the West) host the Sacramento Kings (4-6, 10th in West). These are two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum, as the Lakers are legitimate title contenders, while the Kings are fighting to return to postseason basketball. Here is a preview for Friday night’s game, along with odds and a pick.
By the Numbers
We’ll start with the road team, Sacramento. The Kings are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the NBA, averaging 13 threes a night on 37.1 percent shooting, eighth and seventh in the league, respectively. They have also done a good job on the offensive glass, coming in as a top-10 team in offensive rebounding.
However, they play at one of the slowest paces in the league and are in the bottom third of all teams in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and assists. Defensively, Sacramento is a middle-of-the-pack group as well. The Kings are 16th in steals but just 24th in overall defensive rating with 111.8.
As for the Lakers, the West’s best team leads the league with a .478 field-goal percentage. They are also second in assists and have the ninth-fewest turnovers, giving up the ball just 14.6 times per game. It’s surprising in a way that the Lakers have a league-high field-goal percentage even without their threes hitting yet.
Los Angeles averages 9.3 threes per game, the fourth-fewest in the league, with the sixth-worst three-point percentage as well. But what has really made Los Angeles a title contender is its defense.
New head coach Frank Vogel leads a unit that has the league’s best defensive rating at 99.7 and is third in the league in points allowed. Their ability through 11 games to stifle offenses has been the biggest reason why the Lakers are in the position they’re in.
What to Watch
Earlier this week, the Kings suffered a blow when point guard De’Aaron Fox suffered an ankle sprain during practice. While Fox, who is the team’s leading scorer, is on the shelf for the next few weeks, the Kings will rely on Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic to pick up the slack against one of the league’s best defenses.
On Wednesday night against the Trail Blazers, Hield had 20 points on fairly inefficient 7-for-21 shooting, while Bogdanovic really stepped up with 25 points and 10 rebounds. Since point guards Cory Joseph and Yogi Ferrell aren’t really scorers, Hield and Bogdanovic will become the main options for the Kings going forward.
Every night with the Lakers, there is something to watch in the form of LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The two of them are up to their normal superstar-level seasons, especially James, who, in year 17, is leading the league with 11.1 assists per game.
But the Lakers are incredibly deep, more so than nearly every other team in the league. On Wednesday night against the Warriors, JaVale McGee had 18 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, while sixth man Kyle Kuzma had 22 points in 30 minutes. Expect Kuzma to continue to get points off the bench in this one in addition to the other stars the Lakers put on the court every night.
Finally, there is a revenge narrative for Kings coach Luke Walton. Walton was previously the head coach of the Lakers before being fired after last year’s disappointing run. Expect Walton to try his best to exploit the weaknesses of some of the players he coached last year and try to leave Staples Center with the last laugh.
Odds and Pick
This is the final game on the NBA slate on Friday, and it’s also the one with the biggest favorite. The Lakers are a whopping -10.5 to beat the Kings at home. While it may seem like a large total, the Lakers are 5-1 at home this year, winning those five by an average of nearly 20 points. With no Fox, the choice is clear. Take the Lakers -10.5.
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