The Lakers (24-12) head to Sacramento (13-21) for the final game of the first half of the season, with a 7:00 p.m. tip off on Spectrum SportsNet.
Below are three things to know in advance of the matchup:
In L.A.’s Tuesday night loss to Phoenix at home, the first leg of their pre-All-Star B2B, they played without three of their top rotation players: Anthony Davis, without whom the Lakers have gone 3-6 since he was injured against Denver on Feb. 14; Marc Gasol (health and safety protocols); and Kyle Kuzma (right heel contusion). Davis is definitely out for Wednesday’s game, and it would be a surprise if Gasol can play against the Kings, but Vogel said he’s hopeful that Kuzma will be available at Sacramento.
And that's burying the lead, because LeBron James will also be absent from Wednesday's game. He'll miss his first contest of the season to stay in L.A. and receive treatment. He's expected to play in the All-Star game, but has been listed as questionable for many games with a sprained left ankle.
LeBron is certainly the center of everything the Lakers do, especially on the offensive end, leaving Frank Vogel with a mountain of holes to fill. Against Phoenix, L.A. played small for exactly half of the 48 minutes, with Montrezl Harrell starting at center and seeing just 19 minutes of run, and Damian Jones getting just seven off the bench. That left either Markieff Morris (34 minutes total) or Jared Dudley (11 minutes) trying to hold down the center position. After the game, Vogel said that he went away from Harrell against the Suns small lineups, and it didn’t end up working out. We could see Harrell get back to his bench role with which he’s more comfortable against the Kings. That could leave Jones as a spot starter, or Vogel could go small again with Morris. Or, with LeBron out, perhaps both!
The Kings have won only one of their previous 11 games heading into this matchup, and currently possess the NBA’s worst defense, with a rating of 118.7, compared to LAL’s NBA-best 105.1. They’ve actually been pretty good on offense, ranking 11th to LAL’s 18th, but their net difference is big due to how much the defense has struggled, having them 26th overall to LAL’s 4th.
SAC, like the Lakers, will have several players out for this one, starting with February’s Rookie of the Month, Tyrese Haliburton, who’s nursing a sore left calf. Jabari Parker and Hassan Whiteside are both out due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, while Buddy Hield is a question mark with a right ankle sprain. De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley and Richaun Holmes will all be in the starting lineup, with Nemanja Bjelica, Cory Joseph and DaQuan Jeffries the only bench players who got minutes in their previous game, a 127-126 loss.
One bright spot in the absence of AD has been the strong play of Markieff Morris, who’s scored in double figures in three of the last four games, all starts, on 50% from the field including a 5 for 6 performance against Phoenix. Morris has also been rebounding the ball well, averaging 6.8 boards in the last four, and continuing his typical solid defense. The Kansas product rarely misses an assignment or a rotation, and is capable of switching amongst guards and bigs, thus gaining the trust of Vogel.
Morris was quiet in January, averaging 4.1 points with 2.9 rebounds in 14.2 minutes off the bench, and acknowledged that he had some tired legs, as did everybody who played through October 11 to secure the 2020 title for the Lakers. He’s looking forward to the All-Star break, as is the entire Lakers roster, for both a physical and mental refresher in what’s been a unique and difficult season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.