Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings
Wednesday 10th January, 3:30am (UK time)
The Lakers are not having a great time of late. Before last night’s victory over the Hawks, they lost nine straight and 15 of their last 16. Though Lonzo Ball recently returned from injury, the team looks disorganised and young. Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram have stepped up in a big way this year, but Ball’s struggles, combined with Caldwell-Pope’s and Brook Lopez’s inconsistencies, have dug Los Angeles into a deep hole. At 12-27, they stand little to no chance of making the playoffs. However, they can still salvage their season by uniting around Kuzma, Ingram, and a rejuvenated Ball to improve their record and save face.
The Kings aren’t quite as bad as the Lakers right now, but they haven’t been much better. Their offence has been atrocious, but the defensive scheming of Coach Dave Joerger has saved Sacramento time after time. They’re currently 13-25 and in the midst of a rebuilding year. The addition of veterans Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, and George Hill has only slowed this team down and prevented them from starting younger guys like Skal Labissiere and De’Aaron Fox. There may not be much talent on the Kings’ roster, but their rookies could flourish if only they could see the court more.
Neither one of these teams is good right now, but the Lakers are much more desperate than the Kings. In addition, Sacramento will play this game as the second part of a back-to-back set, so it’s worth looking at Los Angeles to get back on track at home in this California rivalry matchup.
Washington Wizards vs. Utah Jazz
Thursday 11th January, 12am (UK time)
The Washington Wizards aren’t having their best year, but their 23-17 record has them in fourth place in the East and squarely in contention. John Wall and Bradley Beal still lead this team as arguably the best backcourt combination in the NBA, and guys like Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, and Mike Scott provide shooting and athleticism on the wings. This team is undoubtedly one of the deepest in the East, and their elite shooters make them dangerous from anywhere on the court.
The Utah Jazz have taken a massive step backwards this season. After making the playoffs and beating the Clippers last year, they now have a 16-24 record and remain in 10th place in the West. The addition of Ricky Rubio has backfired, with the former Wolves point guard putting up just 12 points and five assists per game. In addition, Utah also lost veteran Boris Diaw, Rudy Gobert has had to deal with serious injury problems this year, and Rodney Hood has taken a backseat to rookie phenom Donavan Mitchell. Mitchell is averaging 18 points per game, but he’s only putting up three assists and is shooting just 44% from the field. The Jazz lack the identity they had last year, and seem content to let Mitchell take the shot almost every time down the floor.
The Jazz are just 3-16 on the road this year, and the Wizards are 13-7 in D.C., which suggests Washington should win this one handily in front of their home crowd.