The Los Angeles Lakers have a home-heavy closing schedule, but against mostly teams that will finish at or above .500, meaning their showdown with the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night is the last game they’ll play against an opponent with a losing record.
The Lakers have won two of their first three games against the Kings this season, but they’re hardly at their best headed into this one. The team might be without Lonzo Ball, who is still doubtful for the game with a left knee contusion. They definitely will be playing sans second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram, who is guaranteed to miss the game as part of the NBA’s concussion protocol.
Without those two key players, the Lakers will be more reliant than usual on leading scorer Julius Randle, who will take on more playmaking and scoring responsibilities in Ball’s and Ingram’s absences.
Also needing to step up will be Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Los Angeles’ starting shooting guard has been a consistent positive for the team for most of the season, but he’s been even better than normal against the Kings.
Caldwell-Pope has averaged 23.3 points per game in the team’s three games against Sacramento so far, while shooting 55.8 percent from the field and a scorching 51.9 percent from 3-point range.
The Lakers will need a repeat performance from Caldwell-Pope on Sunday if they’re hoping to beat the Kings. Although, he might have a better chance to maintain that level of play simply because Sacramento isn’t very good.
The Kings enter play on four-game losing streak and having lost six of the last seven. They lack scoring punch, with the third-worst offensive rating in the NBA, scoring 101.5 points per 100 possessions. They don’t make up for it with defensive prowess, ranking 29th in the NBA in defensive rating, allowing their opponents to score 109.7 points per 100 possessions.
Not helping the Kings will be that they’re a young team playing on the road, and doing so on the second night of a back-to-back to boot. Still, the Lakers have lost six of their last eight games amid bouts of listless play while their defense has dropped from 13th on the season to 16th in the league over that span.
Sacramento will also be playing the Lakers as beat up as the team has been all season, without two of their most impactful players, and when their playoff fate is already decided.
Looking at most metrics and at the series so far would lend the belief that Los Angeles should be heavily favored, but if they continue to look as rough as they’ve looked recently, the Kings could leave them looking like April Fools.
Los Angeles Lakers (33-42) Vs Sacramento Kings (24-53):
6:30 P.M. PST, April 1, 2018
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Josh Hart
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Kyle Kuzma
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Alex Caruso, Tyler Ennis, Ivica Zubac
Projected Kings Starting Lineup:
PG: De’Aaron Fox
SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic
SF: Justin Jackson
PF: Skal Labissiere
C: Willie Cauley-Stein
Key Reserves: Buddy Hield, Jack Cooley, Frank Mason III, Vince Carter, Bruno Caboclo
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