But on the night before Thanksgiving, none of that mattered as they were bested by an undersized center and fifth-year power forward out of a mid-major school.
In yesterday’s 113-97 win, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes shutdown the Lakers tandem, holding the two big men to a combined 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting. The Sacramento Kings’ duo picked up the slack for DeMarcus Cousins, who played just 21 total minutes and battled foul trouble all night long.
“We’re gonna take some credit,” Hayes said postgame of their play against Howard and Gasol. “But I think the Lakers had something to do with that to only let (Howard) take four shots.”
Despite the recent coaching change to Mike D’Antoni, no team is more familiar with the Lakers than the Kings this year. Including the preseason, the Kings have played the Lakers five times this season, winning four of those match-ups. Because of their familiarity, preparing for the Gasol/Howard frontline was not as difficult for the Kings as one might imagine.
“We know this team pretty well,” Hayes said. “And plus, we really needed to get this win. What better way (to get a win) against a team we know pretty well.”
Added Keith Smart: “They’ve had a good steady diet of how to play these guys…”
The Kings head coach credits Hayes and Thompson as consummate “glue guys” for his team. Smart told media postgame that Hayes is in much better shape this year thanks to work with assistant coach Clifford Ray and strength and conditioning coach Daniel Shapiro.
“He’s doing some nice things,” said Smart of the veteran big man, who scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting last night. “Finishing around the basket, trusting the little shots that he has.”
Smart called Thompson “a worker” and that his well-rounded effort contributed to last night’s Kings’ victory. The Kings head coach pointed out specifically how the fifth-year power forward ran, attacked the offensive glass and moved without the basketball in the win.
“He didn’t keep it in his hands and try to make a play,” Smart added of Thompson. “He did what I saw him doing last year and that’s why I fell in love with that guy because he’s a great, great glue guy for a team that’s moving in the right direction.”
In the Kings’ 16-point win, the 26-year-old forward did a much better job of keeping his emotions in check. Thompson fouled out during a two-minute span early in the fourth quarter in the Kings’ last meeting against the Lakers a week-and-a-half ago.
But last night, Thompson avoided foul trouble, picking up just one personal in a team-high 40 minutes. He also stayed away from stirring the pot with officials when calls didn’t go his way.
“Losing and stuff like that was kind of making me frustrated,” said Thompson of his previous outing against the Lakers. “And then not being able to stay in the game due to certain situations (frustrated) me.
“I can get frustrated because I care,” Thompson added. “I think if I didn’t show any emotion, that shows that I don’t really care…People can take it how they want, but I try to move on and not get too mad.”
Thompson recorded his third double-double of the season, finishing with 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and a game-high 10 rebounds. His effort was much appreciated by teammates, who appreciated and noted what he brought to both ends of the floor.
“He’s always got energy,” said Kings swingman Tyreke Evans. “He was running so fast on the court, I just told coach let’s look at him in the post a few times the way he was playing defense and was working hard.
“We need a guy like that on our team,” Evans added. “Glad to have him.”