Kings-Lakers Preview

The Associated Press

In what has essentially become a lost season, the Los Angeles Lakers face a potential reprieve against the team closest to them at the bottom of the Western Conference.

And they won't have to deal with DeMarcus Cousins, either.

The embattled Lakers will try to overcome a week marred by internal issues and end a three-game losing streak Friday night at Staples Center against the Sacramento Kings.

Los Angeles (19-39) has fallen into the West cellar with seven losses in its last eight games. Making matters worse, a dispute between center Pau Gasol and coach Mike D'Antoni has played out in the media in recent days with Gasol questioning team discipline and lineup choices after Tuesday's loss at Indiana.

"I just made some remarks of how I felt after the (Indiana) game," Gasol said following Wednesday's 108-103 loss at Memphis. "Yes, there was some frustration, but I don't think it was anything out of line or nothing that went too far. I stated something obvious to me."

D'Antoni expressed his displeasure in his pregame news conference.

"The thing I just don't appreciate - and I think every coach, and it should be everybody - you just keep it in house," D'Antoni said. "It's very easy to come over and talk about your frustrations. We'll try to work something out and figure it out for now. But to go (to the media) and to do it in the paper is disturbing. I just don't think that's the way to go."

Gasol had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Grizzlies, and Jodie Meeks, averaging 17.2 points over his last five, had a team-high 19. The Lakers trailed by 13 with 2:22 remaining before trimming the deficit to three in the final minute thanks to 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range in the final quarter.

"I thought there was better energy and better karma," said D'Antoni, whose team has gone 1-9 at home since Jan. 5. "There was a much better feeling among themselves. I thought they battled and their defense was good in the second half."

Sacramento (20-37) is also dealing with an issue involving its big man after Cousins was suspended one game without pay and fined $20,000 for two separate incidents in a 129-103 home loss to Houston on Tuesday.

Cousins, averaging a team-leading 22.3 points, was suspended for punching Rockets guard Patrick Beverley in the stomach less than 3 minutes into the game. The fine stems from his treatment of an official who handed him two technical fouls in the third.

The center had to be restrained after his ejection - he later apologized via Twitter - and his coach said it wasn't the kind of behavior that would help the team.

"He lost his composure, that's all I saw, and then he got thrown out of the game. It's disappointing. But to be honest, I'm more disappointed about how we played," coach Michael Malone said. "Do I condone his actions? No, not at all. Does he have to handle himself better? Sure he does. We just need to get him to understand that we don't need him to get kicked out of the ballgame."

The technicals were the 14th and 15th of the season for Cousins, who will receive an automatic one-game suspension for a 16th per NBA rules.

The Kings, sitting 1 1/2 games ahead of the Lakers in the conference, had won back-to-back games before allowing Houston to shoot 56.9 percent.

Rudy Gay scored 25 points for the Kings and is averaging 26.3 over his last three.

The Lakers have won four straight against Sacramento, including two this season, and 10 of the last 11 home meetings.

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