12/16/2004 01:27:00 PM|||Kurt|||Looking for positives as the Lakers head into Sacramento for the second game of a tough road trip, I came back to this: The Lakers are worth more than the Kings. According to Forbes magazine, the Lakers are the most valuable franchise in the NBA, worth $510 million. That is 14% more than last year (easily outpacing inflation, in case you were worried about Dr. Buss’ lifestyle). For the record, the New York Knicks are second at $494 million, followed by Dallas ($374 million), Houston ($369 million) and Chicago ($368 million). Actually,on the court the Lakers should be somewhat optimistic coming into the game in Sacramento — the last time these two teams met, the day after Thanksgiving, the Lakers hung close and lost by just three. Since then the Lakers have improved as a team. Well, as long as you throw out that game a couple of nights ago. That last loss to Sacramento featured some of the Lakers recurring problems this season. Start with the fact Los Angeles led by three with 1:19 left in the game, then gave up a 7-1 run to lose. Or, you can look at the turnovers — the Lakers had 12, Sacramento 8 (for the season, the Lakers average 3 turnovers a game more than their opponents). Figuring that Sacramento scores an average of 1.08 points per possession and the Lakers 1.07, the four more turnovers than Kings last time around accounts for an eight-point swing. Sacramento gets great play out of its starting five, a group that has an impressive eFG% of 51.8% and bests the team it is out against 61% of the time. (Compare that to the Lakers, whose starting five have an eFG% of 49.4% and best their opponents 35.2% of the time.) Last time these two met, the Lakers inside duo of Lamar Odom and Chris Mihm did a good job offsetting the inside play of Chris Webber and Brad Miller, which when you look at the Kings PER by position is where they are getting the best play on offense. The Lakers actually outscored the Kings in the paint, 44 to 38. What hurt the Lakers (and many other teams) was not being able to stop the King’s small forward Peja Stojakovic, who led the Kings with 26. Defensively, the three is the position the Lakers give up the most points against, an oPER of 18.7. Also, don’t forget the Kings have Mike Bibby and we counter with Chucky Atkins, not a matchup in our favor. Last time these two teams met, Brian Cook had a then-season-high 15 points of the bench, and Jumaine Jones added 10. Kobe had a game high 40, but took only 17 shots from the field. What he did do was draw fouls — Kobe was 15 of 19 from the free throw line. After the ugliness of two nights ago, I’m not sure what to expect from these Lakers. If they shake it off and get a win (or even come close), it would be a sign that this team really is maturing and improving. We shall see. |||110322884152265229|||On Tap: The Sacramento Kings