Kobe Bryant practically guaranteed the Los Angeles Lakers would make the playoffs, but injuries could derail L.A.’s season before the postseason.
Bryant is a game time decision and forward Pau Gasol is still experiencing soreness in his foot as the rest of the Lakers prepare to take on the Sacramento Kings Sunday night at Staples Center.
A nasty ankle sprain, which he reportedly called the worst of his career, forced Bryant to play just 12 minutes Friday against the Indiana Pacers, but the Lakers still prevailed in a 99-93 road win.
Center Dwight Howard scored a team-high 20 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks, and veterans Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake came off the bench for 35 points. Blake also pulled down six rebounds, with seven assists and four steals.
Over the last 18 games, the Lakers have gone 12-6 and managed to shoot past the .500 mark for the final playoff spot in the West without Gasol, but any hope for a long postseason run is predicated on a healthy Spaniard and Bryant.
Sacramento equaled its win total in February with a 121-79 blowout of the Chicago Bulls Wednesday. The Kings have gone 4-4 in their last eight games after a 3-9 run last month, including a six-game skid.
Sacramento’s backcourt did much of the heavy lifting against Chicago. Combo guard Tyreke Evans scored 26 points with seven assists, his third straight game with 20-plus, and Isaiah Thomas totaled 22 points.
Exploding out of the gate for a 65-36 half time lead, the Kings bench maintained the lead in the second half. Chuck Hayes and Toney Douglas each scored 10 points, and guard Jimmer Fredette chipped in nine points, going 1-for-2 from three-point range.
Over the last two games, Fredette is averaging 11.5 points, and shooting 66 percent from the field, both well above his marks for the season.
Star second-year forward DeMarcus Cousins sat out with a thigh injury, but with five days between games may return against the Lakers. The 22-year-old averages 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, leading the Kings in both categories.
The game tips-off at 9:30 p.m. eastern time and will be broadcast by CSAC and TWC SN, or watch a live online stream by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband here.
Betting Odds: L.A. is favored by 9 points.
Over/Under: 212.5 points
Prediction: If the Laker bench performs like they did against Indiana, then they can outlast the Kings plethora of youth in the backcourt. The quick Thomas and multi-talented Evans pose matchup problems for L.A., but if Cousins sits again the Lakers should walk away with a solid victory.
Predicted Score: Los Angeles 104, Sacramento 94