Over the past few years, the Los Angeles Lakers have grown used to playing meaningless games at the end of the season. Last year, they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with 10 games left in the season. The season before that, they were eliminated with nine games remaining.
This season, they’re going into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but their last regular season game will just as inconsequential as it’s been in recent years. In fact, neither the Sacramento Kings or Lakers will have anything to play for on Thursday.
For that reason, the priority for both teams on Thursday should just be to leave the floor unscathed. With the playoffs set to start next week, there’s no reason for LeBron James, Anthony Davis or any of the Lakers’ key players to play meaningful minutes, unless for some reason they feel like they need the conditioning. Even then, they’ll have a week-long break before the first game of their first-round playoff series, so they can build up their conditioning during that time.
If anyone is going to play hefty minutes during the postseason, it should be the players that haven’t seen much of the floor this season like Talen Horton-Tucker, Kostas Antetokounmpo and Devontae Cacok. Yes, Horton-Tucker has gotten more minutes as of late, but he could always benefit from more reps, especially with the rotation expected to get smaller in the postseason.
It also wouldn’t be the worst idea to get J.R. Smith more reps. Although he probably won’t be anything more than a “break glass in case of an emergency option” for the Lakers in the playoffs, it would still be good for him to get the rust off because, boy, there is a lot.
If you do want to watch, make sure you set your alarm for this one, because the Lakers and Kings will tip-off bright and early at 10:30 a.m. PT.
Notes and Updates
- Alex Caruso (right neck muscle spasms) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (right foot contusion) will not play against the Kings tomorrow. Caldwell-Pope missed the Lakers’ last game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday, while Caruso re-aggravated his neck injury in the game.
- Update: Caruso and KCP won’t be the only Lakers sitting out. Anthony Davis (knee soreness) will also sit, and Kyle Kuzma will rest to give Vogel a better look at Markieff Morris and Jared Dudley. LeBron James and Danny Green will only play the first half, and Talen Horton-Tucker will get his first start of the season, with Morris also starting.
- The Lakers are 2-0 against the Kings this season.
- If you’re looking to see which teams the Lakers might play in the first round, here is your guide to what the four teams battling for the two spots in the play-in round need to do today to get there.