Kings at Lakers preview: Closing in, and closing out

Jeff Gross

The Kings head down to Staples Center in a game where the Lakers can take an even firmer grasp on their playoff aspirations.

The Sacramento Kings visit the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in a game that can propel the Lakers' playoff hopes even further up the charts. With a current .5 game lead on the Utah Jazz for the eight seed, the Lakers can push it to a full game with a home victory Sunday night. Even better, the Lakers are only 1.5 games behind the Houston Rockets, and 2 games behind the sixth seed Golden State Warriors.

After an inspired performance by the role-players, Dwight Howard and the Funky Bunch will have to jam out once again. Kobe Bryant is doubtful after attempting to play on his sprained ankle, and Pau Gasol has suffered what has been called a "setback" to his foot. Though there isn't a comprehensive update on Gasol, he felt "soreness" in his foot after training with the team and will be examined Sunday. After suffering no setbacks, and looking as if he would potentially start playing (as a starter) Monday with the team, it's once again time for the Lakers to hold their breath as they hope for a favorable outcome with Gasol.

Dwight Howard will have to continue playing a dominant brand of basketball. While he may not be capable of taking the reigns of putting up Kobe scoring numbers, he has still been a key in the post All-Star break Lakers' turnaround. A team that was 3.5 games out of the playoffs is suddenly in position to make a chase for the six seed if they continue playing well.

Over the last ten games Howard has averaged 17.2 points, 15.1 rebounds, and 3 blocks. There's no statistical measurement to credit him for his improved defensive movement as he blows up the opponent's pick and roll game to smithereens. His streak of 13 games with 12 or more rebounds started after the All-Star break ended and keeps on rolling.

The Kings will be traveling down to Southern California riding three days worth of rest. They last played the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, where they dominated Chicago 121-79. The Lakers and Kings have split the two games they have played this season, with two games remaining in the season series counting tonight's matchup.

DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings' lead scorer and rebounder, is questionable Sunday night. He suffered a contusion of his left quadriceps last Sunday and missed the Kings' game on Wednesday.

The Lakers have seven games remaining to close out March, but only two of which will be at Staples Center. Their other home game will be Friday when the Washington Wizards visit. With five road games on tap, taking care of home-court will be critical, especially against teams that are below .500 on the season. The Lakers will travel to Phoenix to face the Suns tomorrow, so a smooth win tonight could help ease the rigors of playing back-to-back, coupled with only a short road-trip to Phoenix.

- Drew

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

- Sactown Royalty has the latest on the Kings ownership and relocation situation.

- Los Angeles Lakers Tickets

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