The Los Angeles Lakers are closing out their season series with the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, hoping they can start a new winning streak while away from home.
L.A. fell to the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, tasting a defeat after four straight victories.
Carmelo Anthony will not be able to help the Lakers get back in the win column, as the 36-year-old forward grapples with a lower back tightness that has ruled him out of the clash in Sacramento, his first missed game of the season.
On the Kings’ side, Richaun Holmes and Damian Jones will miss the game after entering the NBA’s health and safety protocols. In a further blow to Sacramento’s frontcourt, Tristan Thompson’s appearance against the Lakers is in doubt due to his quad injury.
The Lakers offense has successfully managed to take advantage of the Kings’ vulnerable defense (26th in the NBA) this year, recording an offensive rating of 116.8 over the previous three meetings — the most against any opponent L.A. has faced more than once in 2021-22.
Hence, the game could provide the Purple and Gold with an opportunity to get going on the offensive end again after a tough shooting night against the Grizzlies.
Although LeBron James is likely to start the clash as L.A.’s point center again, Dwight Howard should play solid minutes in Sacramento. Howard spends the most time on the court this year when the Lakers face the Kings, clocking in 24.3 per night.
His cameo in the previous meeting on Jan. 4 made a huge impact on L.A.’s rebounding. The 36-year-old center came out from the break among the Lakers’ starters, ending the night with 14 points and 14 rebounds, including seven offensive boards.
The veteran center’s size and athleticism could again prove to be the key to success. The Kings give up the third-most offensive rebounds (11.4 per night) in the NBA and amid Anthony Davis’ absence, Howard is best suited to capitalize on Sacramento’s struggles in its own paint — gaining crucial additional possessions for L.A.
Besides trying to keep the turnovers in the single digits again, the Lakers should also double down on their efforts to contain De’Andre Fox and Buddy Hield. Fox has twice scored 30 points or more against L.A., even though he averages 20.7 points on the season.
Meanwhile, the Purple and Gold has gifted Hield with plenty of good chances to strike from beyond the arc this year. The 29-year-old guard attempted 13 triples in two of the three previous clashes against the Lakers.
He sank more than half of them during the night of the memorable triple-overtime thriller, which ended in L.A.’s only loss to the Kings in the current campaign.
It’s easy to see the game getting out of control if the Lakers allow Hield to get hot from the 3-point land again.
Overall, Sacramento has been a good matchup for Los Angeles in 2021-22. In fact, the Lakers started the Kings’ current five-game losing streak last week. With the right energy and mindset, the Purple and Gold can prolong their rivals’ poor run — and begin their own, victorious one right at the beginning of the second half of the season.
Lakers (21-20) vs. Sacramento Kings (16-27)
7:00 p.m. PT, Jan. 12, 2022
Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Malik Monk
PF: Stanley Johnson
C: LeBron James
Key Reserves: Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, Dwight Howard, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Tyrese Haliburton
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Marvin Bagley III
C: Alex Len
Key Reserves: Davion Mitchell, Buddy Hield, Chimezie Metu, Terence Davis
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