Things to watch in Lakers-Kings game
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers play at Sacramento on the second day of a three-game stretch.
1. How will Kobe Bryant's wrist hold up? I hope to keep the Kobe wrist-watch analysis in perspective, so it doesn't sound redundant. Believe me, asking Bryant how his wrist is feeling becomes as annoying to him as the reporter asking it. But it's going to be inevitable, at least for the next couple of games. As Bryant showed Christmas Day with a 28-point performance on 11-of-23 shooting, his stroke is largely unaffected -- at least to the point that he only needs to wear athletic tape around the wrist, instead of a protective device. However, his eight turnovers can be at least partly attributed to his wrist problem. The lower that number drops, the more it will indicate that Bryant is making better adjustments on his handle.
2. The Lakers need a pick-me-up. The Lakers definitely need this back-to-back to immediately rectify blowing an 11-point lead in the final minutes of the Christmas opener. In that game, they showed that hard work alone won't be enough to beat elite opponents, and certainly won't wipe out ridiculous mistakes. The game against Sacramento gives them an opportunity to correct those and errors and feel better after collecting a win.
3. Can the Lakers limit turnovers? The Lakers committed 17 turnovers in the season opener. They averaged 21.5 turnovers in the two preseason games. And Coach Mike Brown remains unsure about when that number will drop.
It's an issue, and it doesn't all relate to Bryant's wrist. It reflects the Lakers' learning curve about where they need to cut and pass on the floor. That situation proved costly against a top defensive team such as Chicago, but Sacramento finished 24th last season in points allowed (104.7) and 28th in opponents' field-goal percentage (47.8%). That gives the Lakers a great opportunity to employ stronger fundamentals against a less-effective defense.
4. How will the Lakers' frontcourt hold up without Andrew Bynum? Considering that they lacked Bynum's size and presence against the Bulls' aggressive frontcourt of Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, the Lakers managed pretty well. With the exception of a pair of missed free throws, Pau Gasol and Josh McRoberts displayed immediate chemistry. Troy Murphy, meanwhile, provided some putbacks and mid-range shots. Kings forward DeMarcus Cousins makes poor decisions but has plenty of power. Kings forward Chuck Hayes provides little on offense but remains a defensive force. The Lakers' frontcourt should hold up fine, but the game should still provide a good test.
5. To what degree will the Lakers' rotations change? Brown suggested that playing time and rotations won't change significantly, despite the Lakers playing three games on consecutive nights. That means it remains to be seen whether "DNP" notations for Matt Barnes, Jason Kapono and Luke Walton are an anomaly or the norm. It's surprising that Barnes and Kapono didn't play, considering that each fills an actual need on the Lakers' roster.
6. Jimmer Fredette. OK, there's a lack of consensus on how well the former Brigham Young University scoring machine will translate his skills into the NBA game. The Lakers have pressing issues, but from a pure fan standpoint, getting a glimpse of the Kings rookie will be a must see.
-- Mark Medina
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