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Kings vs. Lakers preview: Sacramento hosts a shorthanded L.A. squad

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Every game is a big one with the Kings in the playoff picture.

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

The Sacramento Kings are back home for a matchup against the defending NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sacramento’s five-game winning streak ended with a 120-106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, but the Kings are right back in the Western Conference playoff race after their recent run.

Game Information

Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California

When: Friday, April 2 at 7:00 p.m. PT

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

Projected Starting Lineups

Kings (22-26): De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes, Tyrese Haliburton, Richaun Holmes

Lakers (30-18): Dennis Schröder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Markieff Morris, Kyle Kuzma, Marc Gasol

Injuries/Absences

Kings: Hassan Whiteside (right knee) — QUESTIONABLE; Marvin Bagley III (left-hand fracture), Jahmi’us Ramsey (right hamstring strain) — OUT

Lakers: LeBron James (ankle), Anthony Davis (Achilles), Andre Drummond (toe) — OUT

The key to Sacramento’s turnaround is the team’s defense. The Kings are surrendering 112.1 points per game during the recent 7-2 stretch, eight points less per game than they were over their first 39 games.

With rookie Tyrese Haliburton inserted into the starting lineup, head coach Luke Walton has tinkered with his rotations and is able to use more versatile combinations.

General manager Monte McNair made a few trade deadline moves, and the new guys have been solid since being dealt to Sacramento. Delon Wright, Maurice Harkless and Terence Davis combine to average 21 points per game and are each seeing regular minutes.

The Kings are hosting a shorthanded Lakers team that five out of their last seven. Without James and Davis, L.A. is averaging only 99 points per outing, second-least in the NBA over the past two weeks. The Lakers simply don’t have enough talent to keep pace, so Walton should encourage Fox, Haliburton, and Barnes to be aggressive every time down the floor.

If Sacramento can play the type of defense it has over the last nine games and continues to space the floor well on the offensive end, it should walk away from this one with a win.

What do you think are the keys to a Kings win?