Kings center DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
The Lakers (37-36) have fallen behind the Utah Jazz in the standings, dipping to ninth place. They'll need to win consistently, starting on Saturday night when they visit the Sacramento Kings (27-46).
While the Kings don't have an impressive record, they've been a solid competitor since trading for forward Patrick Patterson near the deadline in February.
The Lakers defeated Sacramento, 113-102, on March 17, but it was a difficult fight. Quick point guard Isaiah Thomas was a load offensively, scoring 26 points. Patterson added 22 points.
DeMarcus Cousins sat out with a quadriceps injury. Perimeter defender James Johnson wasn't with the team for personal reasons.
Kobe Bryant is probable for Saturday with a bone spur in his left foot. Steve Nash is questionable with a sore hip and hamstring.
Dwight Howard battling against DeMarcus Cousins hasn't really materialized this season. Cousins was suspended for the first game between the two teams.
In a 113-97 Sacramento victory on Nov. 21, Cousins fouled out with only seven points in 21 minutes. Howard scored seven in the losing effort.
Cousins is one of the best young centers in the league. Howard's play has vastly improved since earlier in season as he's gotten healthier.
Perhaps Saturday is finally the marquee matchup between the two.
If Bryant and Nash aren't healthy enough to play -- or aren't themselves on the court -- the Kings would be at a significant advantage.
Thomas is difficult to stop off the dribble. Marcus Thornton is a streaky scorer but when he's hot, he can carry the Kings like he did with 23 points in Sacramento's earlier victory over the Lakers.
As important as the game is to the Lakers, they should be able to muscle out a win.
Health, fatigue and general confusion might make the Lakers vulnerable to an underrated Sacramento team.
Kobe Bryant probable, Steve Nash questionable for next game
Kobe Bryant has bone spur in foot, Steve Nash has 'hip spasm'
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.