by Charlie O. Mallonee
TRIVIA QUESTION – James Harden leads the NBA in assists (12.3 apg) and ranks fourth in scoring (31.5 ppg). Who is the only player in NBA history to lead the league in scoring and assists in a single season?
Los Angeles Lakers
This is not Kobe’s Lakers team
This is the actually “the team” Mitch Kupchak has been trying to put together for the past three seasons. No longer are the Lakers centered around an aging “star” who would not accept a reduced role for the betterment of the team.
D’Angelo Russell – the number two-overall draft pick in 2015 – is leading the team in scoring with an average of 15.4 points per game. Third-year forward Julius Randle out of Kentucky is beginning to be an impact player in the starting line up averaging 14.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He has two double-doubles so far this season. Guard Jordan Clarkson is adding 15.1 points per start for LA. The “youngsters” are starting to make their mark on the team.
New coach – new attitude
Luke Walton is in his first year as head coach of the Lakers. He was the “hottest” coaching prospect on the market during the off-season after the job he did filling in for Steve Kerr at Golden State. Walton is the eighth person to have played for and coach the Lakers. He is also the youngest head coach in the NBA at 36 years old.
Lakers come into the game tonight with 4-4 record
The Lakers have won three of their last four games. They are coming off a 109-97 loss at home to the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. It was the first time LA had not scored at least 100 points in their last five games. They also suffered a defensive lapse as Dallas shot 52.4-percent from the field.
The Lakers biggest win of the season came on November 4 when they downed the Golden State Warriors 117-97 on national television.
One of the most improved teams
The Lakers are considered by some to be one the most improved teams in “the association”.
Trying to keep the winning streak alive
After winning big in in Toronto last Sunday to close out the road trip and handling the winless Pelicans at home on Tuesday night, the Kings are anxious to up their winning streak to three in-a-row.
DeMarcus Cousins is still leading the way on offense for the Kings with 25.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. He scored 28 against the Pels. Rudy Gay continues to be hot averaging 22.4 points per game. Darren Collison will play in his second game since returning from suspension and should have some significant impact on the second unit against the Lakers.
Defense is the key
The key to the back-to-back victories for the Kings has been holding their opponent to under 100 points. They are still averaging giving up 101.9 points per game which is too high but is coming down from the 102.5 that is was at the beginning of the road trip.
The Lakers have scored 108 points or more in each of their four wins.
Going for the sweep
The Kings swept the Lakers in the four-game series last season for the first time in their history. Sacramento would like to send a message in this game that they have every intention of repeating that feat again this season.
The Kings have won seven games in-a-row against the Lakers and five in-a-row in Sacramento.
The Kings host the Lakers in Sacramento tonight and then have to travel to Portland to play the always tough Trail Blazers on Friday night. They face a reduced chance to win on the road because of the back-to-back scenario in Portland.
For entertainment purposes only
FiveThirtyEight.com using their CARM-elo system gives the Kings a 70-percent chance of winning tonight’s game with the Lakers. They say take the Kings minus 5.5 points.
Some of the other well-known entertainment sites also have the Kings as the favorites at minus 5.5 points with an over/under of 209 to 209.5.
Nationally televised game
Tonight’s game is being televised across the nation by TNT. That means their is no local play-by-play cable coverage on Comcast California.
TRIVIA ANSWER: Nate Archibald of the Kansas City-Omaha Kings led the NBA in scoring (34.0 ppg) and assists (11.4 apg) in 1972-73.