The Los Angeles Lakers have not won five consecutive games since May 9-19, 2021, when they won six straight to close out the 2020-21 regular season. On Saturday night, they have a chance to reach that figure with a victory over the Sacramento Kings.
L.A. is without Troy Brown Jr., Austin Reaves, Lonnie Walker IV and Anthony Davis, all of whom are out indefinitely with various injuries. However, they figure to have LeBron James — despite it being the second night of a back-to-back.
To defeat the Kings, the Lakers need all the reinforcements they can get. The Kings have not finished .500 or made the playoffs since 2006, but as things stand prior to Jan. 7’s game slate beginning, Sacramento is leading the Pacific division.
The Kings are having a resurgent year thanks to the improved play of star guard De’Aaron Fox, last season’s premier trade deadline acquisition Domantas Sabonis, and perhaps the highest-quality depth the franchise has had in years. Outside of a game-time decision for former Laker Malik Monk, the Kings figure to be completely healthy.
The Lakers are 0-2 against the Kings this season, dropping a Nov. 11 matchup, 120-114, and a Dec. 21 meeting, 134-120. In their last meeting, four Kings starters reach at least 20 points and six scored double figures.
And while L.A.’s defense has taken a sharp downturn — No. 25 in the NBA in their last 10 games — their offense has seen great improvements due to an unselfish brand of basketball that runs through James, Russell Westbrook and the surprise breakout center Thomas Bryant.
Bryant is averaging 16.3 points and 9.9 rebounds since the injury to Davis, meaning Saturday could be a fascinating big man battle between two players with similar skillsets in Bryant and Sabonis.
Both the Lakers and Kings have a strong preference for small ball. Both teams deploy only one true center — Bryant and Richaun Holmes — with both using their athletic ball handlers to drive and kick to open shooters. However, the Kings have a plethora of options on the wings.
While the Lakers’ depth is more guard-heavy, the Kings have Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, Keegan Murray and the elite defensive guard Davion Mitchell lining the perimeter.
For the Lakers to steal their first win of the season against the Kings and inch closer to the postseason picture, they need to slow down the pick-and-roll efficacy of Fox and Sabonis, while keeping wing shooters like Huerter and Barnes in check.
Los Angeles Lakers (18-21) vs. Sacramento Kings (20-17)
7:00 p.m. PT, January 7, 2023
Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Dennis Schroder
SF: Juan Toscano-Anderson
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant
Key Reserves: Russell Westbrook, Max Christie, Wenyen Gabriel, Kendrick Nunn
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Kevin Huerter
SF: Harrison Barnes
PF: Keegan Murray
C: Domantas Sabonis
Key Reserves: Davion Mitchell, Richaun Holmes, Malik Monk
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