Lakers Vs. Kings Preview: LeBron James Returns While Russell Westbrook, Austin Reaves & Anthony Davis Remain Out
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers face the Sacramento Kings on the road Wednesday night, the climax to a short two-game road trip. The Lakers are 0-6 in division games this year with a 12.5 loss margin.

The Lakers are coming off a blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday. The Kings are coming off a home loss to the Charlotte Hornets. After starting the season with an 8-2 record at home, the Kings have lost three in a row at Golden1 Center.

Sacramento defeated L.A. at Crypto.Com Arena on Nov. 11 to push the Lakers’ record to 2-10. The Lakers were up 2 points with 2:13 remaining but went scoreless the rest of the way. LeBron James missed the game due to a groin injury.

However, James is playing on Wednesday night after missing the last game because of left ankle soreness. Outside of James though, it is a laundry list of injuries for the Lakers.

Anthony Davis continues to be out because of a foot injury. The severity is still unclear with the Lakers seeking second and third opinions. Davis though could be out at least a month after playing some of the best basketball of his career.

Russell Westbrook is also out with left foot soreness while Austin Reaves and Juan Toscano-Anderson are both missing the contest because of ankle sprains. Scotty Pippen Jr., who played against the Suns Monday night, is back with the South Bay Lakers so only 10 players will be available for L.A.

Sacramento, meanwhile, has everyone healthy for the matchup. Domantas Sabonis and Harrison Barnes were listed as day-to-day, but both participated in shoot-around and are expected to play.

Sabonis is enjoying arguably his best season as a professional. He has three 20-point, 20-rebound games in the NBA, two more than the entire league combined. At 7-feet, Sabonis leads the Kings in assists and rebounds all while averaging 18 points per game on 62.7% from the field. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six rebounds in the first meeting.

The Lakers must find a way to contain the big man without Davis manning the middle. Thomas Bryant should get the initial assignment to start the game. Damian Jones and Wenyen Gabriel had some run at the center off the bench against the Suns but Deandre Ayton feasted on the Lakers’ big men, scoring 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting plus 11 rebounds.

Sabonis though is not the main problem for the Lakers. De’Aaron Fox led the Kings’ comeback last time with 32 points and 12 assists. He also iced the game with a mid-range fadeaway over Austin Reaves. The Kings’ offense is set up with Sabonis, but Fox is the main scorer. With no Reaves, Patrick Beverley and Lonnie Walker IV should likely be the main defenders.

Sacramento is among the best 3-point shooting teams in the league, shooting 35% from deep per game. The Lakers are slightly above the worst 3-point shooting team in the NBA with 32.8% per game. However, when the Kings are at home, teams are shooting 38.3% from deep this season.

With a five-game road trip two games away, a win here could give the Lakers some positive momentum away from L.A.

Los Angeles Lakers (13-17) vs. Sacramento Kings (16-13)
7:00 p.m. PT, December 21, 2022
Golden 1 Center
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Lonnie Walker IV
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant

Key Reserves: Troy Brown Jr., Wenyen Gabriel, Kendrick Nunn, Damian Jones, Max Christie

Projected Kings Starting Lineup:

PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Kevin Huerter
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Keegan Murray
C: Domantas Sabonis

Key Reserves: Malik Monk, Davion Mitchell, Trey Lyles, Chimezie Metu, Terrance Davis

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