By Morris Phillips
SACRAMENTO–Alvin Gentry’s not settling for this.
The Kings’ hard earned double-digit, first half lead over the Lakers evaporated into a 25-point loss and the team’s interim coach was embarrassed.
Gentry’s been around: he was an assistant for the world champion Warriors, he’s led successful, playoff teams in New Orleans and Phoenix, and what he saw Tuesday hurt his eyes.
“They don’t deserve what they got tonight,” Gentry conceded. “As the coach of this team I want to apologize to every Kings’ fan out there.”
Worse than an embarrassed coach, the Kings had their two most recent outings as examples not to follow (loss at Memphis) or keep that blueprint (3OT win at the Lakers) and they couldn’t choose, mixing in each for one half of Tuesday’s roller-coaster.
In the first half, the Kings fought through screens defensively, controlled the glass, then backed it with 56 percent shooting and all the smart ball possession decisions they could muster. The result: a 59-50 lead at the half in which they led by as much as 13. Conversely, the Lakers looked slow, disinterested and leaderless without LeBron James, who was placed on COVID protocols earlier in the day.
But it turned out, the visitors, led by Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and wild card Malik Monk were surreptitiously waiting for the Kings to fall flat, and they did just that in a third quarter that was so lopsided it could decide 90 percent of all NBA games.
That was the prelude to a 67-33 wipe out, a second half that enlivened every Lakers fan who walked into Golden 1 Center and left the Kings and their crowd spent.
“A team goes on a run, you punch back and if there is no punch back, you’ll get run out the gym like we did,” Richaun Holmes said.
Holmes was actually the only Sacramento player to lift his fists in the third. The undersized center who returned after missing the three, previous games made all three of his field goal attempts while his teammates were 1 for 15. The Lakers shot 58 percent and with the Kings flailing, they needed just seven minutes to pull even at 72. But their run was just beginning: with the Kings in the midst of a stretch where they missed 17 of 18 shots, the Lakers ended the third on a 15-2 run to lead 87-74.
“We weren’t giving the necessary effort to transition defense and with our pick-and-roll coverages,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “Sometimes you have to let them hear about it.”
Davis had 10 of his team-best 25 in the third, and Russell Westbrook 11 of his 23. Monk came up with the 41-foot, buzzer beater to end the first half, then got nine more in the third, finishing with 22 points.
Holmes led all scorers with 27, missing just one of his attempts from the floor. Chimezie Metu was just as integral with 14 points and 10 rebounds in the absence of the injured, front court trio of Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley and Moe Harkless. But all four Sacramento guards had nights to forget.
De’Aaron Fox had 17 points, but his five assists and seven turnovers were telling. Buddy Hield missed six of his seven shots and finished with five points. Rookie Davion Mitchell was a demon defensively in the first 24 minutes, but he missed 11 of his 14 shots and turned it over three times. Tyrese Haliburton missed eight of his 10 shots and finished with six points.
Rookie Louis King, a significant name from the Kings’ summer league push, got his most significant NBA minutes to date by doing a bang up defensive job on Carmelo Anthony. But King too was fallible; he shot 1 for 6 and committed four fouls in 14 minutes on the floor.
The Kings get little time to regroup, they’ll travel to Los Angeles on Wednesday to face the Clippers.