Lakers at Kings: 3 Things to Know (12/27/18)

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers face off against the Sacramento Kings.

1) L.A. is down two of its veteran leaders
The Lakers will face their toughest internal test of the season, as they will play without LeBron James for the first time this year.

James — who suffered a strained left groin in the Christmas Day win over Golden State — leads the Lakers in scoring, rebounds, assists, 3-pointers, free throws and minutes. And he is elite among all players, ranking fourth in the NBA with 27.3 points per game.

To compound matters, the Lakers will also be without Rajon Rondo, who stepped up in James’ absence against the Warriors. Rondo provided 15 points and 10 assists with zero turnovers, guiding L.A. to a 26-point rout.

Someone else will have to take over in James’ and Rondo’s stead.

2) Zu is in feast mode
Since filling in as the Lakers’ starting center three games ago, Ivica Zubac has been on a rampage.

During that span, the 21-year-old has averaged 17.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, while shooting a towering 78.1 percent from the field (25-of-32).

Zubac has been monstrous with usual starter JaVale McGee recovering from illness, and it’s likely that the Lakers will need similar production from him to overcome an extended injury report.

One area to keep an eye on is whether the Lakers will be able to get Zubac in his spots without James’ and Rondo’s playmaking, as he has been excellent at finding space this season, shooting a league-best 12-of-13 off of cuts.

3) Sacramento has a dangerous squad
The Kings own the NBA’s longest playoff drought, with their last postseason appearance being the 2006 opening round. But this year’s team is on a mission to defy the odds.

Sacramento is currently just a half-game back of both the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference. Its turnaround has largely hinged on a brand-new offensive identity.

After running the NBA’s slowest pace last season, the Kings now rank as the second-fastest team. They also lead the NBA in fast-break points (22.1), just ahead of the second-place Lakers (20.3).

Sophomore point guard De’Aaron Fox has been crucial to this, averaging the league’s eighth-most assists (7.6). And Buddy Hield has been an elite shooter, leading the team in scoring (20.0), while ranking fifth league-wide in made 3-pointers (3.1).

Injury Report
JaVale McGee (respiratory infection) and Tyson Chandler (back spasms) are questionable. LeBron James (strained left groin), Rajon Rondo (sprained right ring finger) and Michael Beasley (personal reasons) are out. Isaac Bonga is on G League assignment.

Kings: Marvin Bagley III (left knee bone bruise) is out.

Tip-Off: 7 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: Golden 1 Center — Sacramento, California