Kings vs Lakers – NBA Pick for January 9th
Spread: Lakers -6.5
The Pacific Division is not good. Sure, it has the defending champion Golden State Warriors at the top, but the division is unlikely to put any of its other 4 teams in the playoffs this season. The Clippers might come closest, but an endless barrage of injuries will probably ultimately be their undoing.
As of now, the Lakers and Kings are bringing up the rear in the Pacific. The Lakers have the worst record in the Western Conference at 12-27, while the Kings aren’t much better at 13-26. The 2 teams will do battle tonight for the second time this season. Back in late November, the Kings beat the Lakers 113-102 in Sacramento.
Sacramento played well last night against the Spurs, but ultimately came up short in a 107-100 loss. Sacramento is currently dealing with some uncertainty in the backcourt. Both George Hill and Frank Mason III are questionable tonight. Hill is awaiting the birth of his child, while Mason has a bruised heel. If they’re both forced to sit again, that’ll mean heavy minutes for rookie De’Aaron Fox.
The rookie has played pretty well in the last 3 games, as he’s averaged 15.3 points, 7 assists and 3.3 rebounds in nearly 33 minutes per game. The former lottery pick has struggled to keep up with some of the truly elite rookies in his class, but he has still shown enough flashes to where the Kings should be excited about the 20-year-old’s future with the team. He’s still only shooting 41 percent from the field this season, but that number should improve as his shot selection gets better.
Willie Cauley-Stein is something of an underreported story these days. The Kings have whiffed on a number of lottery picks in recent years, but Cauley-Stein is finally starting to give Sacramento consistently good minutes up front. The former Kentucky big man was a tough cover for the Spurs last night, as he finished with a team-high 22 points along with 9 rebounds in 30 minutes of action.
The rest of the Kings’ rotation has been constantly in flux. Head coach Dave Joerger has been working to find something that results in wins, but victories have been hard to come by. Malachi Richardson started last night but played just 12 minutes. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Garrett Temple have given the Kings solid minutes off the bench, while Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and George Hill have been fairly inconsistent. It’s just a weird roster without much continuity.
As for the Lakers, they’ll come into tonight’s game as healthy as they’ve been in a while. L.A. snapped its 9-game winning streak on Sunday night at home with a resounding 19-point win over the Hawks. Lonzo Ball once again struggled with his shot, but he did contribute in other areas. The Lakers’ prized rookie finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal in 30 minutes of action to help end the skid.
It’s also been nice to see Brandon Ingram’s continued improvement this season. After shooting just 40 percent as a rookie, Ingram is up to 45 percent from the field this year, and he’s scoring about 7 more points per game than he did a season ago. He’s playing with a confidence that we didn’t see much at all last season, and he’s starting to live up to that lofty status as a former No. 2 overall pick.
The Lakers have struggled to put together much momentum at all this season, but their roster has more talent than their lousy record shows. This team should be better than the Kings, and they have a golden opportunity to start a new winning streak at home tonight. 6 ½ points is an awful large spread, especially for a team as shaky as the Lakers have been, but the Kings’ point differential of -8.5 is the worst mark in the league.
The game may not be as lopsided as the aforementioned blowout of Atlanta, but the Lakers are in a fine spot here. The Kings played last night and had to travel after the game, while the Lakers have had a day to rest.