LeBron James shoots from distance

Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Kings - 11/26/21

by Mike Trudell

The Lakers (10-10) are back in Los Angeles to take on the Kings (7-12) at 7:30 p.m., with the pregame show starting at 6:30 p.m. Pacific on Spectrum SportsNet.

Below are three things to know about the matchup:

LeBron James has taken over so many of the 1,319 regular season games he’s played over the years that Wednesday’s at Indiana wouldn’t necessarily stand out … except for the position he played on defense. He was up to his usual mix of point guard and shooting guard on offense against the Pacers, burying all manner of jump shots, towards 17 combined points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Nearly as impactful was his work as the center on defense.

With the ill Anthony Davis unavailable, Frank Vogel went without a center – sitting DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard – for all but 2:30 of the fourth and OT. LeBron handled 11:05 seconds of that duty.

“When I’m playing defense at the center position, I’m able to call out all the coverages before teams even get into it, and it gets my other four guys into position where they’re not caught off guard,” said LeBron. “Just trying to continue to communicate throughout the whole possession, keep my guys aware of screens and flares and slips and whatever case that’s going on behind them, and it resulted in us getting some stops. My guys did a great job of keeping body on body, and then rebounding.”

“It’s something we’d talked about potentially using, we wanted to see how effective our centers could be eating up minutes against (Domantas) Sabonis and (Myles) Turner and their size,” said Vogel. “We felt we were probably going to close the game with it, and we went to it sooner than we anticipated. But the space of bringing Turner away from the basket, just being able to open things up. This is the new era of basketball, five perimeter players using that space to attack, and switching a lot of things defensively.”

Dropping 17 points off the pine at Indiana wasn’t actually Malik Monk’s season high for the Lakers, as he posted 27 points in a home win over Miami. But his scoring combined with his season-high eight rebounds may have made his effort against the Pacers his most important in Purple and Gold. With L.A. playing extra small, Monk grabbed four of those boards in the fourth quarter, plus one in OT, to secure possessions. He also scored eight of his points in that fourth quarter, including a pair of 3-pointers.

The Lakers likely don’t manage their comeback from 12 down in the second half if not for Monk’s impact.

“(I have to) not be stagnant, I just can’t stand and watch,” he explained. “I have to rebound and find other ways to effect the game while LeBron is working, as well as Russ, too.”

Monk also enjoyed being out there in key moments with LeBron.

“That’s what he does, that’s why he’s the GOAT, man,” said Monk. “He’s going to take control of the game … he’s gonna bring us home. I’ve been watching him my whole life. He’s like our Jordan. I’m just blessed to be out there with him and learn from him every day.”

Such have been Sacramento’s struggles that they fired former Lakers player and head coach Luke Walton following a Nov. 20 loss to Utah that dropped their record to 6-11. Typically, the next game after the firing of a coach is a rallying cry for the players, but the Kings came out and lost at home to a Philadelphia team playing without its three best players, 102-94.

The interim coach, Alvin Gentry, did manage to oversee a 125-121 win over Portland on Wednesday, but Harrison Barnes left the game with a foot injury and is questionable to play against the Lakers on Friday. Richaun Holmes is also a question mark after missing Wednesday’s game with an eye injury. Those two have been Sacramento’s most consistent options this season, with De’Aaron Fox struggling (down from 25.2 points last season to 19.9 this year, losing five percentage points off his field goal percentage). In fact, Fox has a -5.2 net rating on the season, ahead of only Tristan Thompson (-10.1) for the Kings.

The Kings have not made the playoffs since the 2005-06 season.

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