SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers are in rebound mode, a theme that has defined their early season.
In many respects, the Sacramento Kings can relate.
The two teams cross their similar paths on Wednesday in the state’s capital city in a nationally televised game at Golden 1 Center. It may prove to be a decent litmus test for both.
The Lakers (8-10) come to Sacramento off their second straight win. On the strength of a 54-39 rebounding advantage, Los Angeles posted a 103-94 home victory over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
Controlling the boards has been mostly the norm for Los Angeles this season. The Lakers were the fourth-best NBA team in that category entering the contest.
It was also one of the bigger reasons they were fourth in defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) with their 100.6 mark before Tuesday, trailing only Boston, Portland and Oklahoma City.
As a result, the Lakers rebounded from an uninspiring spell that saw them lose five of six after a 5-5 start. Whether Los Angeles can get to .500, and ultimately past it, and return to its perch as one of the top franchises in the NBA is another question entirely.
“This is where I hoped we’d be,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told the Los Angeles Daily News. “I thought it would take a little longer for us to do some of the things defensively that we’re doing right now, which is why I think we’ve been able to have some success.”
The Kings do not rebound. They give up 7.8 more per game than their opponents, the worst mark in the NBA.
Rookie Kyle Kuzma has proven to be the Lakers’ most consistent player. He scored 22 points against Chicago and leads the Lakers with a 16.8 average. He has tallied in double digits in 12 straight games and 16 of 18 overall.
That is in stark comparison with more hyped rookie Lonzo Ball, who contributed 13 rebounds to go with eight points and four assists in 32 minutes against the Bulls. Ball, already the sixth player to log more than one triple-double in his first 20 games, is averaging 8.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 6.9 assists, but he has been more up and down than a bobblehead amid the controversies involving his father, LaVar Ball.
“We’re gonna keep giving him support, he’s gonna keep getting better,” Walton told the Daily News. “That’s just probably going to be how the process of this plays out.”
The Kings (4-13) have been mostly successful at home this season, but they came back to earth in a 114-98 loss to the visiting Denver Nuggets on Monday. That defeat snapped a three-game home winning streak.
Sacramento is expected to play its third straight game without second-leading scorer Buddy Hield (11.6 points per game), sidelined due to a sprained right ankle. The Kings have struggled to score all season even when he does play. They manage just 93.2 points per game, also the league’s worst mark.
“Sometimes, we’re having the first shot, it’s (contested), we did everything right except get the rebound, and then (the opponents) get an open shot off a second-chance shot,” Kings rookie De’Aaron Fox said. “So, we just know if we can complete a lot of plays with a rebound, we’ll be just fine.”