The (23-5) Lakers are playing the first game of a two game road trip tonight  against the young and talented (13-15) Sacramento Kings.

In the last game of a four game Western Conference road trip the Lakers allowed the Cavaliers to come into their house and send a message to them that they’re fully prepared & equipped to beat them. The Lakers record, to this point, can be attributed to their solid defense, but the Lakers appeared to be shackled on Christmas day and their front line of Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol held to a combined 15 points.

Every team has flaws and weaknesses and the Lakers were on full display and the Cavaliers were able to capitalize on them. The Lakers never matched the intensity of their opponent and unfortunately didn’t play the type of defense that they’ve played all season for 48 minutes.

The results were fans throwing water bottles, foam fingers and other debris on the floor and the team doing too much complaining to the officials, technical fouls and cheap shots as opposed to making the necessary adjustments and playing Lakers basketball.

The two best things about yesterday’s game that it’s over and it counts as only one loss. They have to put that loss in their memory banks, focus on the remaining 54 games and use the loss as motivation to take out the anger and frustration on every team they face. Another note, they will have another opportunity to see the Cavaliers again and make their own statement in 26 days.

Without Ron Artest, the Lakers will start a different line up perhaps with Lamar Odom, Adam Morrison, Josh Powell or Shannon Brown stepping in as a starter. The Kings are a talented young team that is maturing and starting to put it together and compete on a nightly basis. This is also a team that pulled off one of the best wins of the year by coming back from 35 points down on the road in Chicago.

The Lakers have to get back to the basics of establishing Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol in the low post and urge them to be highly aggressive. The Lakers bigs need to play like seven footers and attack the basket early & often and stop relying on so many jump shots. The moment the shots aren’t falling and you’re not getting the calls you’re expecting to receive attack the rim and force the officials to make a call one way or the other.

It’s all about defense and it must be said again that the team must control the tempo of this game and not allow the young Kings to get out in transition and run up and down the floor.

The Lakers will face several screen and roll plays and will have to be on the same page defending it. Kings rookie Tyreke Evans is averaging 20.4 points, five rebounds and five assists per game and also one of four players (Lebron James, Dwayne Wade an Joe Johnson) averaging the same totals. Evans leads all rookies in scoring and minutes. More than likely Kobe Bryant will match up with Evans and limit him from being able to ‘reke havoc’ on the floor.

The Lakers’ front line needs to challenge every shot, own the glass, both Pau & Andrew should have double digit rebound totals and outscore this team in the painted area. The Lakers need to play with a ‘us against the world’ mentality, execute their offense and play defense to the whistle. I want to see this team play with passion on every possession and work toward destroying every opponent.

Tip-off: 7:00 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: KCAL (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
  • Sacramento: Comcast Sportsnet (Grant Napear & Jerry Reynolds)

Radio

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Mychal Thompson)
  • Sacramento: 1140 AM KHTK (Gary Gerould)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Luke Walton (Back) Out
  • Ron Artest (Suffered Injuries to his head & Left Elbow) Out
  • Kobe Bryant (Avulsion fracture, right index finger)

Kings:

  • Kevin Martin (Wrist) Out
  • Francisco Garcia (Right Forearm & Wrist) Out
  • Sean May (Strained Right Hamstring)