Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

April 26, 2012
Kings vs. Lakers: Five things to watch

The Kings' season comes to an end tonight in the same building and against the same opponent it started with back on December 26.

The Lakers are heading to the playoffs as the third seed in the Western Conference, while the Kings are finishing their sixth consecutive losing season.

It was announced earlier today that Kobe Bryant will not play tonight, which saps tonight's game of some of its drama. Bryant would have needed 38 points to pass the Thunder's Kevin Durant for the league scoring title.

Instead, the Kings will reportedly face a Lakers team that will rest Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum for the playoffs, and that is already without Metta World Peace, who is serving a seven-game suspension for his elbow to the head of James Harden.

Here are a few things to keep an eye on during the game:

1. Will motivation be an issue? This game bears some similarity to the Kings' loss to the Warriors on March 13. The Kings found out right before that game that Golden State had traded two of its starters, including Monta Ellis. They came out flat, lost by 26 points and later said there may have been some complacency facing the shorthanded Warriors.

Tonight, the Lakers will rest their stars and, according to the Los Angeles Times, run out a starting lineup of Ramon Sessions, Steve Blake, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts and Jordan Hill. That's not exactly Murderers' Row. But the Kings have shown they cannot have a habit of taking games lightly.

2. Does Travis Outlaw get another start? Marcus Thornton is not expected to play tonight. Outlaw, something of a forgotten man for much of this season, has started the past three games with Thornton out and had by far his best game of the season against the Thunder, scoring 20 points and adding seven rebounds and four steals. 

3. Can Isaiah Thomas add an exclamation point? While the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving is presumably the favorite for the league's Rookie of the Year honor, Thomas has certainly made an impression in his inaugural season. The final pick in last year's draft has twice been named the Western Conference's top rookie. He is averaging 11.5 points and four assists overall, and 14.9 points and 5.3 assists since taking over as a starter in February. It will stand as a strong rookie season regardless, but he has one more chance tonight to finish it with a flourish.

4. The Kings need to capitalize on turnovers. When these teams played on March 2, the Kings had five turnovers compared to 13 by the Lakers. But the Lakers scored 10 points off turnovers and the Kings scored just six. The Kings need to make those opportunities count. 

5. Another title on the line. So Bryant will concede the scoring crown to Kevin Durant by not playing tonight. That isn't the only race that could be impacted by Kings-Lakers. How about the (slightly less exalted) offensive rebounding title?

The Timberwolves' Kevin Love currently leads the league at 4.11 per game, with DeMarcus Cousins a close second at 4.08 (Cousins, who has played in more games, has a league-high total of 257 offensive boards). The Timberwolves play tonight, too. But with Gasol and Bynum both out for the Lakers, is the stage set for Cousins to make a furious rally?

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