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Preview: Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings

February 28, 2014|By Eric Pincus
  • Lakers center Robert Sacre right, tries to block the shot of Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins during a game on Dec. 6.
Lakers center Robert Sacre right, tries to block the shot of Sacramento… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

After a difficult two-game road trip, the Lakers (19-39) host the Sacramento Kings (20-37) on Friday night at Staples Center.

The Lakers have lost three straight games including visits to the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies.

Sacramento should be a more manageable challenge, especially without center DeMarcus Cousins, who was suspended by the NBA for throwing a punch in Tuesday night's loss to the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers are still without Nick Young (knee), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation), and Kobe Bryant (knee).

Xavier Henry (knee) made a rehabilitation appearance in Texas on Thursday in the NBA Development League with the D-Fenders.  It's unclear if he'll be back in Los Angeles and cleared to play by Friday night.

Key matchup

The Kings are heavily reliant on their three scorers in Cousins (22.3 points a game), Rudy Gay (20.5 with Kings) and Isaiah Thomas (20.4).

Gay has been tremendous since a trade from the Toronto Raptors, shooting an efficient 49.8% from the field through 33 appearances.  He's also averaging 5.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists a night for Sacramento.

The Lakers have recently experimented with Wesley Johnson at power forward.  With Cousins out, perhaps Jason Thompson will start at center with Derrick Williams at power forward.

If so, Kent Bazemore would probably draw the assignment on Gay with Johnson on Williams.

Bazemore, who has played just four games with the Lakers since a trade from the Golden State Warriors, is the team's leading scorer at 17.3 points a game.

X-factor

Thomas is just 5-foot-9, but he's a difficult player to defend.

In addition to scoring over 20 points a night, Thomas dishes 6.4 assists while shooting 44.9% from the field and 37.2% from three-point range.

Lakers point guard Kendall Marshall has struggled in recent games, scoring just seven points over the last four contests.

The loss of Blake, who looked to pass first despite starting at shooting guard, along with the arrival of scorers MarShon Brooks and Bazemore, has changed the dynamic for the second-year point guard.

The Kings are not a strong defensive squad.  Friday should be an opportunity for Marshall to rediscover his game.

Outlook

While the players on the floor fight to win, both teams need to lose Friday.

Neither team is destined to make the playoffs, making lottery positioning the greater priority.

The Kings have one more win than the Lakers.  A Sacramento victory widens the gap with 23-24 games left to play.

Should the Lakers win, both teams will sit with 20 wins.

Sacramento may have the losing advantage without Cousins.

ALSO:

Lakers' late rally falls short against the Grizzlies, 108-103

Knicks sign former Lakers Earl Clark and Shannon Brown

NBA suspends Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins for game against Lakers

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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