The Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings hope to get back on winning tracks when they square off Wednesday night in the California capital.
The Lakers had won two in a row before opening a three-day, two-game trip without LeBron James and absorbing a 130-104 drubbing in Phoenix at the hands of the Suns on Monday night.
At the same time, the Kings, also seeking a third consecutive win but doing so on their home court, saw the Charlotte Hornets come to town and walk away with a 125-119 victory.
L.A. and Sacramento met once earlier this season, with the Kings winning 120-114 on the road in November in a game in which the Lakers were also missing James.
This time, they’ll be without Anthony Davis, who injured his right foot in a 126-108 home win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday.
James had 33 points in 37 minutes in his sidekick’s absence in a 119-117 triumph at home over the Washington Wizards on Sunday, then sat out the second night of a back-to-back in Phoenix.
He is expected to return Wednesday to a site at which he has had more than his fair share of success in his career, going 7-3 as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, 2-1 with the Miami Heat and, most recently, 2-1 with the Lakers.
James has scored at least 30 points six times in those 16 games, including a 51-point explosion for the Cavaliers in 2009.
The Lakers aren’t sure when Davis will be able to return, so James admitted it’s up to the current collection of healthy bodies to band together and win as often as possible to keep the club close enough in the Western playoff race. The hope is that a late run could carry the team into the postseason and toward another championship.
“A minor setback before a major comeback,” he said of Davis’ injury. “We’re going to try and hold down the fort for as long as we can until we get our No. 1 guy back. I hope he just has a clear mind and takes his time and understands that it’s just temporary.”
Like last year, when the Lakers (11th) and Kings (12th) were separated by just three games and both narrowly missed the Western play-in tournament, both clubs currently find themselves in a tight battle at the lower end of the playoff picture. Sacramento will take the court 3 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers, who currently would be on the outside of the 10-team Western postseason.
Domantas Sabonis (21 points, 10 rebounds) and De’Aaron Fox (32 points, 12 assists) both recorded double-doubles in the earlier win in Los Angeles, and both are coming off monster games in Monday’s loss to the Hornets.
Sabonis had 28 points and 23 rebounds against Charlotte, and Fox a game-high 37 points, but it didn’t prevent a disappointing opening to a six-game homestand.
Kings coach Mike Brown, who once coached James in Cleveland, took time after Monday’s setback to push Sabonis for a spot on the Western All-Star team.
“He’s just a very special player,” the first-year Kings coach insists. “There aren’t many guys that have the skill set that he has around the league at that position.”
–Field Level Media