Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox meet for first time in NBA as Lakers visit Kings

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The Los Angeles Lakers invade Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night for a nationally televised game against the host Sacramento Kings. Tipoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN.

These two franchises entered the NBA (then called the Basketball Association of America) in 1948, when they represented Minneapolis and Rochester. The Lakers and Kings have played 423 regular-season games against each other since then and the Lakers have won nearly 64 percent of those meetings (270 to 153).

The 117-win disparity in this rivalry is the largest in NBA history when it comes to one team versus another. The second-widest difference is 108 wins in the Boston Celtics-New York Knicks rivalry (288 to 180). However, the Kings have won nine of the last 11 meetings in this series.

Los Angeles, which beat the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night, has not won two games played on consecutive days since Nov. 18-19, 2014 (road games at Atlanta and Houston). Since then, the Lakers have played 50 pairs of back-to-back games, splitting 20 of those sets and losing 30.

Point guard rivalry

Wednesday night marks the first time that Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball will be matched up with fellow rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox of the Kings since their college days. The last time these two met was in the Sweet 16 of last season's NCAA tournament. Fox and Kentucky outplayed Ball and UCLA in that game.

Fox has started the last three games for Sacramento and is averaging 10.7 points per game on 50 percent shooting in those contests.

Although Fox got the better of Ball back in March, the point guards are having similar rookie seasons in the NBA. They currently rank second and third among rookies, respectively, in assists per game while both struggling to find their shots.

Kuz Control

While Ball dominates the headlines, another Lakers rookie is doing it on the court. Kyle Kuzma leads Los Angeles in scoring at 16.8 points per game, including 23.2 points in his last four outings. The last rookie to lead the Lakers in scoring for a season was Elgin Baylor in 1958-59 (24.9). Kuzma’s 16.8 points per game is the second-best for all rookies this season behind the Philadelphia 76ers' Ben Simmons (18.7).

Kuzma scored a season-high 30 points last Friday against the Phoenix Suns, the most by a rookie this season. The two highest-scoring games by a rookie this season have come against the Suns (Ball scored 29 on Oct. 20).

Kuzma has seven 20-point games, the most by a rookie this season. Also, his five double-doubles are second among rookies (Simmons, 11).

The importance of defense

The Lakers were the league's worst team in 2016-17 when it came to defensive efficiency, but Los Angeles has improved to fourth so far this season. The key has been defending the 3-point line, as the Lakers are tied with the 76ers for the best 3-point field-goal percentage defense this season.

How is Los Angeles holding down opponents' field-goal percentages? The Lakers are contesting shots and doing it often. Los Angeles leads the NBA by contesting 71.3 shots per game, which is seven more per game than any other team.

The Kings represent the other end of the defensive spectrum as they currently own the league's the second-worst defense by allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions. The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team worse on that end of the floor. What's more, the Kings' average loss this season has come by 17.8 points per game. The last team to have an average losing margin that large for a season was the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks, who lost 71 games by an average of 18.4 points.

Another defensive issue for Sacramento has simply been effort and hustle. The Kings rank in the bottom six in the NBA in deflections, charges drawn and contested shots per game.

Controlling the glass

The Kings are averaging 7.8 fewer rebounds per game than they have allowed this season, the poorest rebound differential in the NBA. Sacramento is 2-12 in games in which it has been outrebounded by its opponent and 2-1 in games in which it produced a rebound advantage.

Meanwhile, the Lakers' starting guards have combined for an average of 12.6 rebounds per game this season, the highest average for any team’s starting backcourt. Ball pulled down 13 boards on Tuesday versus the Bulls after he grabbed 16 of them during a triple-double on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

Ball’s total of 29 rebounds over a two-game span is the highest for any starting guard in the NBA this season and the highest for a Los Angeles starting guard since Kobe Bryant in November 2002.

Not very regal

Sacramento has scored fewer than 100 points in each of its last six games, the longest such streak by an NBA team this season and the longest for the Kings since they failed to reach triple-digits in any game during a seven-game stretch in the 2014–15 season.

The lack of offensive success can be attributed in part to poor play from some of the team's veterans. Point guard George Hill averaged a career-high 16.9 points per game in 2016-17 for the Utah Jazz, but this year he's averaging his fewest points per game in seven seasons.

Veteran forward Zach Randolph leads Sacramento with 12.3 points per game, the lowest average by a team’s leading scorer this season. No team’s leading scorer has ever averaged fewer than 13 points per game for a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.