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Lakers vs. Kings Preview: Who will L.A. lean on without LeBron James?

With LeBron James out until at least Friday, who will step up for the Lakers?

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Following a blowout win over the Golden State Warriors on Christmas Day, the Los Angeles Lakers will travel a little further north to take on the Sacramento Kings at the Golden 1 Center on Thursday.

The Lakers have already seen the Kings once this season, and they came out on top in comfortable fashion in their first meeting. However, this time around they’ll be without two of their most valuable players, LeBron James and Rajon Rondo.

James will sit out with a groin strain while Rondo will miss the game due to a right ring finger sprain. Their absence will be hard to compensate for, but the Lakers have a few things that could work in their favor.

For starters, the Kings will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back. They lost to the Clippers 127-118 on Wednesday.

It’s also possible that the Kings play down to the Lakers with James and Rondo sidelined. The team that’s missing the superstar for the first time often ends up being the team that wins in these scenarios because they get overlooked by their opponent.

However, in order for any of those things to mean anything, the Lakers will have to do their part. The question is, who will step up and lead the team on the court?

The easy answer is Brandon Ingram, who will likely slide down to the small forward position and become the new focal point of the offense, but in order for Ingram to be effective, he has to find that balance between scoring and setting up his teammates.

The same could be said for Kyle Kuzma, who head coach Luke Walton will turn to for points. Especially if the offense gets stagnant, as it often does.

Defensively, the Lakers will have to keep the Kings’ from shooting the 3-ball. De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, who have emerged as one of the more exciting young backcourts in the NBA, have both shot above 40 percent from behind the arc on this season. Nemanja Bjelica is also draining the 3-ball at an efficient rate (45.5 percent).

If the Lakers can keep the Kings from getting their shots off, the game plan will be simple: Beat them in the paint.

The Lakers killed the Kings on the boards in their last matchup, out-rebounding Sacramento 59-50. The 59 boards they grabbed that night is still their season-high.

Between the resurgent Ivica Zubac, Tyson Chandler and possibly JaVale McGee, who is listed as questionable for Thursday, they should be able to replicate that effort on the glass.

The game will tip-off at 7 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet. You can follow the game along with us by following @LakersSBN on Twitter.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Christian on Twitter at @RadRivas.

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