by Michael Martinez
picture credit Google Images
SACRAMENTO- Nostalgia was in the air at Sleep Train Arena tonight. The Lakers and Kings played a game that brought everyone back to the memories of what was once the NBA’s best rivalry. Kobe Bryant was vintage, taking us back into a time machine as well in his final game in Sacramento. The crowd got loud, the Beat LA chants surfaced and the game came down to the wire. But that same nostalgia should have never been as the Kings let a 27-point lead dwindle in a matter of minutes. Luckily for the Kings their lead was just enough as the team sent off Bryant with a loss in his final game in Sacramento, 118-115, in a tale of two halves.
The Kings came out of the gate with great ball movement and shot the ball with precision while playing with great tempo. The team was able to get off to a hot start, going on a 19-4 run before the Lakers took a timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Kings pushed the ball up court well, totaling 11 fast break points. The ball was continuously moved throughout the quarter and the Kings dropped 11 assists while turning the ball over just 2 times. The Kings biggest lead of the quarter was 21 when they went up 25-4 over Los Angeles. The Lakers tried to find some sort of offense, but the Kings looked better on defense only allowing the Lakers to shoot 40% from the field. The Kings shot 60% from the field, 15-25. DeMarcus Cousins continued his recent dominance with 12 points, 3-6 from the field, with 2 of those field goals coming from behind the arc. Cousins also grabbed 5 rebounds while going 4-4 from the charity stripe. Rajon Rondo finished the quarter with 5 dimes and Quincy Acy was a nice spark with 7 points as he started the game for the Kings. Ben McLemore did a nice job of getting to the hoop as he finished with 8 points. Great overall team play put the Kings on top of the Lakers, 38-21, after the first quarter.
The second quarter featured much of the same for Sacramento, although the Lakers played a bit better cutting the Kings lead to 14 early in the quarter. The Kings found a way to answer right back, however, as the team was able to sustain. Cousins was an efficient scorer, adding 10 more points in the second, 3-3 from the field and 4-5 from the free throw line. Cousins totaled 22 points for the game high, adding 6 boards. The Kings shot the ball 59.1% for the half while only turning the ball over 3 times in the quarter, for a total of 5 at the half. Bryant made his presence felt with 18 points in the half on 7-12 shooting. The Kings used their dominance in the paint to keep the lead after 2 quarters, 69-48.
Up by 21 heading into the 3rd, the game was the Kings to lose. The team still found a way to hold a big lead through half of the 3rd quarter, going up by 27 at one point. Rondo still found a way to dish the ball out and Acy benefitted from it. Rondo also had a break out pass to Rudy Gay for a big hammer dunk in the quarter. But Cousins picked up a 5th with 5:48 remaining and that really hurt the Kings. The Lakers slowly cut down the Kings lead, Bryant totaled 10 points in the quarter, and finished the night with 28 points. Acy scored 11 points in the quarter and finished the 3rd with 18 points. D’Angelo Russell had a good quarter and finished with 16 points through 3. The Kings were still able to keep their shooting percentage up high at 58.6% and held the lead, 102-86.
The 4th quarter went as horrible as the Kings could possibly imagine. The young Lakers team played without Bryant for the 4th and they attacked the Kings defense. D’Angelo Russell scored 11 points and Jordan Clarkson added 12. The two young guards tore up the Kings defense while the Kings could not find a way to score. The Kings watched their lead completely disappear, as the Lakers went on a 24-3 run to take the lead, 109-108. The game soon became back and forth, with Sleep Train getting extremely loud. Gay took an alley oop from Rondo to put the Kings up late, but the Lakers came right back. The Lakers tried to foul rondo, who split a pair of free throws. Then Cousins was fouled and split a pair of free throws, the Lakers were up 115-114. . The Kings took the lead with 21.7 seconds remaining on a tear drop lay-up from Rondo. On the next passion, Cousins caused Clarkson to turn the ball over as the Kings were up by 1 and then drew a foul. Cousins made both free throws. As the Kings were up 118-115, Lou Williams took a 3 pointer in the final seconds and missed it. The crowd breathed a sigh of relief as the Kings were outscored 29-16 in the quarter, but pulled out the victory.
The Lakers shot the ball 55% for the quarter and finished shooting 54.7%. In the 4th, the Kings shot the ball at 40%. Cousins finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Rondo finished with 9 points and 12 assists. Acy was a great spark for the Kings, finishing the night with 18 points. The Kings finished the game in sloppy fashion and ended the night with 15 turnovers. Their dominance in the paint did prevail, 64 points on the night. The Kings are now 10-3 when shooting over 50% with a 55.3 shooting percentage on the night. Russell scored 27 for the Lakers as he looks to be the new Kings killer and Williams added 20. The Kings barely squeaked out a win and Coach George Karl was not too pleased with his team afterwards.
After answering a few questions, Karl walked out of the media room.
After the game, Bryant reminisced on his time in Sacramento and about the applause from the fans.
“It was great. It’s a sign of respect, even though we’ve been enemies for years…” said Bryant.
Bryant also had high praise for Cousins who finished 1 point shy of 30. Cousins would have finished his fourth consecutive game with 30+ plus points had he made one more free throw or field goal.
Although the Kings won, there was little satisfaction.
Coach Karl said “Dallas was a good loss, tonight was a bad win..”
Boogie agreed. “I feel the loss against Dallas was better than this win against the Lakers,” said Cousins.
The Kings almost gave away a huge lead and need to find a way to close out games while not playing to the level of opponents who are much worse than them. The Kings will take on the Warriors at home this Saturday and if the team hopes to stand a chance, they will need to play like they did in the first half, while closing out the second half.