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Kings vs. Lakers preview: Sacramento won’t have to deal with LeBron James

The Kings catch a break ahead of their first game of the season against the defending champions.

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Sacramento play their second-to-last game before they NBA All-Star break when they host the Los Angeles Lakers.

This will be the first meeting of the season between the Pacific Division rivals, who have both been struggling of late. The Kings have won just one of their last 11 games, while the Lakers are 2-5 over their last seven outings.

Tyrese Haliburton will miss the final two games before the break. The Kings announced they will keep the NBA’s Rookie of the Month for February out of the lineup as a precaution.

But they also caught a break as well. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reports that LeBron James will sit this game out to get some extra rest.

Game Information

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento

When: March 3, at 7:00 p.m. PT

How to watch/listen: NBC Sports California, KHTK Sports 1140 AM

Projected Starting Lineups

Kings (13-21): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley, Richaun Holmes

Lakers (24-12): Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Mathews, Markieff Morris, Montrezl Harrell

Injuries/Absences

Kings: Buddy Hield (ankle), Jabari Parker (health and safety) — QUESTIONABLE; Tyrese Haliburton (calf), Chimeze Metu (wrist), Hassan Whiteside (health and safety) — OUT

Lakers: Kyle Kuzma (heel) — QUESTIONABLE; LeBron James (rest), Marc Gasol (health and safety), Anthony Davis (Achilles) — OUT

Sacramento is coming off a disappointing loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday that saw the team give up a four-point lead with less than 20 seconds left in the game. Malik Monk hit a layup to tie the game with 1.4 seconds left and was fouled on the play by Richaun Holmes. Monk hit the free throw and Hield missed the desperation shot to win it at the buzzer.

The Kings need to use their size advantage in this one. L.A. is already without Anthony Davis and will not have Gasol in the lineup due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Holmes, Marvin Bagley III and Nemanja Bjelica need to be assertive in the paint and try to bully the undersized Lakers.

Sacramento’s defense remains the single biggest reason why the team is struggling over the past month. Since their 7-1 run, the Kings are surrendering 124.6 points per game, the most out of any NBA team. Opponents are shooting 52.4 percent from the field against Sacramento over the past 11 games.

Head coach Luke Walton talked acknowledged his team’s defensive struggles during Tuesday’s media availability. He said the scheme won’t work if his players continue to get beat early off the dribble, which is causing too many breakdowns on their own end.

The Lakers give up the second-fewest points per game in the league so Sacramento will have its work cut out on both ends of the floor. If Holmes, Bagley and Bjelica can control the paint, the Kings should be able to stay in it.

The Kings will be the more rested team having two days off before the game. L.A. lost to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.