Avery Bradley with the layup against the Kings

Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Kings - 1/4/22

by Matthew Barrero

The Lakers (19-19) have won two straight games for the sixth time this season, following their 108-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. They’ll face the Sacramento Kings (16-22) at Crypto.com Arena, as both teams enter the night having won three of their last four games. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. PT with the pregame show, followed by tipoff at 7:30 p.m. PT all on Spectrum SportsNet.

Here are three things to know before tonight’s contest:

THINK SMALL
Without the availability of Anthony Davis, the use of LeBron James at the five has allowed for the Lakers to play a smaller lineup and have more shooters on the floor. Despite being outrebounded and the impressive outing by the T’Wolves big man, Naz Reid, Frank Vogel resisted the urge to go bigger as way to evolve in what he feels is a solid lineup moving forward.

“If [Reid] is scoring in the low post against Stanley’s [Johnson] toughness, we can live with that,” Vogel said postgame. “When we played the first two games, big, they killed us on the glass. They’re a great perimeter-crashing team and that was going to be an issue whether we were big or small.”

Vogel also mentioned that one of the reasons they didn’t go big last game was because if the Lakers are going to commit to going small, they have to learn how to box out and adapt when getting outrebounded.

James made his first career start at center back on Dec. 28 in a win over the Houston Rockets. After a return to his usual forward position in a loss at Memphis, Bron has started at center the last two games against Portland and Minnesota (both wins).

In those three wins, the Lakers are averaging 126.3 points and are shooting 52 percent from the field. On top of that, L.A. has improved its turnover margin and has recorded fewer turnovers in every game (+3 average differential).

MICROWAVE HEATING UP
While the play of the 37-year-old James has been impressive of late, one name that has really taken a liking to his new starting role is that of Malik Monk.

Monk has found himself in the starting lineup in four of the last five games, playing over 30 minutes in each. His five game averages include, 20.0 PPG, 57.4 FG%, 42.4 3PT%, 100.0 FT%, and a +/- of +66.

“He can do it all offensively,” Vogel said after Sunday’s win. “That’s what we love about Malik. We can put the ball in his hands and he can make plays. He’s really giving us a huge lift offensively, and he’s competing and doing everything he can on the defensive side as well.”

Monk has especially played well with LeBron on the floor and without any bigs for the Lakers. The two have a +17.8 netRTG, 126.3 offRTG, 60.8% eFG%, and 108.5 defRTG. Monk continues to show his versatility as a scorer, whether he’s making a circus-shot type layup or knocking down logo three-pointers.

MAKING A SPLASH
With a smaller lineup comes more shooters, and with more shooters comes more three-pointers. The Lakers have hit 13 or more threes in four straight games. Over the last three games specifically, L.A. is second in the league in points from three-pointers (47.0), percent of points from three-pointers (40.8) and three pointers made per game (15.7).

Additionally, they lead the league in three point rate over the last three games at 50.0 percent.

The Lakers enter the night middle of the league when it comes to average 3PT percentage (34.9), but the team has found a better stride from beyond the arc over the last week. Carmelo Anthony has hit 40.0 percent of his threes the last four games and came up with a clutch, four-point play late in Sunday’s win over Minnesota.

“I just wanted to get a little space, peek at the rim and see where I was at,” Anthony said Sunday. “That peek determined how I had to shoot the ball and once I seen him leaning, I knew once I jabbed and shot it, there was a chance to get that call. You have to be willing to take those shots and just embrace it. It’s just a matter of being willing to step up at that moment.”

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