Lakers-Kings Preview

Kobe Bryant is nearly ready to make his season debut. But the

Los Angeles Lakers will have to make do without their star for at

least one more game.

They’ll try to win a third straight road game with their

short-handed rotation Friday night against the Sacramento

Kings.

Bryant practiced for a third straight day Thursday without any

setbacks, though the Lakers dispelled the speculation he might play

against the Kings. He did mention Sunday’s contest against Toronto

as a possibility if he feels like he is ready to return from the

torn left Achilles he suffered on April 12.

“Getting a rhythm under my legs, as far as stopping on a dime,

raising up and shooting,” he said. “And getting your game legs

underneath you where you can shoot a jump shot comfortably.”

Although they’re without Bryant, the Lakers (9-9) have won five

of seven. They’ll be without yet another body Friday, though, with

Jordan Farmar expected to miss four weeks after tearing his left

hamstring in Sunday’s 114-108 home loss to Portland.

The loss of Farmar leaves Steve Blake as the team’s only true

point guard. Steve Nash is still sidelined due to a back injury

with no timetable for his return.

Despite losing Farmar in Sunday’s first quarter, the Lakers

brought themselves within a point of the Blazers after entering the

fourth quarter with a 20-point deficit.

“We have guys down right now, but we can’t do anything about

that,” said Xavier Henry, who scored a career-high 27. “The guys we

do have can still give any team a run for its money.”

Pau Gasol, who was just 3 of 15 for six points, also suffered a

mildly sprained right ankle, but is expected to play Friday.

The Kings (4-12) have lost five in a row, though three of those

defeats were by a combined five points and another was in overtime.

However, the lone lopsided result was a 100-86 setback in Los

Angeles on Nov. 24, the Lakers’ third straight victory in the

series. Henry had 21 points off the bench while Gasol scored

20.

Much like Henry kept the Lakers alive against the Blazers,

Isaiah Thomas nearly led a successful Sacramento rally in Tuesday’s

97-95 home loss to Oklahoma City.

Thomas, who scored 21 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter,

missed a potential tying jumper with 1 second left. The Kings

outscored the Thunder 30-19 in the final 12 minutes after scoring

34 points over the second and third quarters.

“I felt like I was passive in the first half and I wasn’t really

doing anything on offense,” said Thomas, who averages a league-best

8.6 points in the fourth quarter. “When I got in at the end of the

third and fourth I wanted to try to make a difference. I was in

attack mode and my teammates kept feeding me.”

Sacramento was also without DeMarcus Cousins due to a sprained

right ankle, but he is expected to play Friday. Coach Mike Malone

was impressed with his team’s performance considering the absence

of its leading scorer and rebounder.

“DeMarcus doesn’t play tonight, (we’re) playing against a team

that’s 12-3 (now 13-4), and odds have them one of the favorites to

get to the Finals out of the West,” Malone said. “And we play them

tooth and nail, giving ourselves a chance to win. At some point

we’re going to pull these games out.”