Photo Credit: Rich Pedrocelli AP Photo
by Charlie O. Mallonee
This should have been a Kings win
All of the prognosticators predicted that the Kings would beat the Lakers in Sacramento on Thursday night. FiveThirtyEight.com said the Kings had a 70-percent chance of winning the game on their home court. The Kings had won two consecutive games playing strong defense in both games. The win on Sunday in Toronto was one of the best wins the Kings had experienced in some time.
Momentum did seem to be on the side of the Kings. Not only were they playing well but their opponent was a young team that in the opinion of most has been playing above their heads most of the season. Everyone expected new head coach Luke Walton to make a difference with the Lakers. No one expected him to make this much of a difference.
The game the Kings (4-6) should have won they lost 101-91 to upstart Los Angeles Lakers (5-4).
The Kings were in control in the first half
Sacramento came out the gate on fire. The Kings hit on 4-of-7 three -point opportunities. DeMarcus Cousins scored 10 points while Rudy Gay added six. The team outscored the Lakers 30-16 in the first quarter and Sacramento looked to be in full control of the game.
In the second quarter, the Kings extended their lead to 19 and appeared ready to turn the nationally televised contest into a “laugher”. The problem for the Kings was the Lakers forgot to rollover and play dead. Los Angeles stepped up and shot 61.1-percent (11-for-18) from the floor and outscored the Sacramento 29-25 in the period behind the solid play of Julius Randle and Lou Williams scoring punch coming off the bench.
At the half, the Kings held a 10-point lead over the Lakers 55-45.
In the third quarter things just got weird
The Lakers came out of halftime and played with determination. They kept chipping away at the Kings lead cutting it to as little as five points before the Kings opened it back up to a 10 point lead again, but the Lakers went on a 7-0 run to tighten up the game. When the horn sounded to end the third period, Los Angeles trailed the Kings by just three points, 73-70.
Now here comes the weird part. I glanced over to the stats monitor and looked at the line for DeMarcus Cousins and it showed he had 18 points in the game. I then looked again and checked my notes. Everything was correct. Cousins had spent 10 minutes on the floor, shot 0-for-4 from the field and had scored zero points. A struggling team like the Kings cannot have its number one scorer held scoreless for entire quarter and expect to win a game.
Everything just fell apart in the fourth quarter
The Lakers sensed that victory was theirs if they attacked hard right from the beginning of the fourth quarter and attack they did. Lou Williams led the way scoring 13 points in period. The Lakers outscored the Kings 31-18 in the final quarter even with Cousins returning to form and putting up 10 points.
The Lakers shot 62.5-percent (10-for-16) from the floor in the fourth quarter. The went 9-for-11 from free throw line. LA out-rebounded Sacramento 14-9 in the last period.
The Kings shot just 22.7-percent (5-for-22) from the field in the fourth. The went 2-for-8 from beyond the 3-point arc. The Kings were just unable to find a final burst of energy to will themselves back into the game.
Take me to your leader
The Lakers had five players (four starters) finish scoring in double figures. Lou Williams was their leading scorers with 21 points. Julius Randle was their top rebounder with eight. Randle and Clarkson tied for the lead in assist with five each.
DeMarcus Cousins finished with 28 points and nine rebounds to lead the Kings in both categories. Darren Collison led the team with nine assists.
Luke Walton on why the Lakers defense improved in the second half
“We competed. The first half, we give them credit, they were making shots, but we were letting them swing the ball side-to-side. It happens every time we play defense like that. It happened in the Dallas game. We let people get comfortable at this level, they’re going to make shots. In the second half, I felt like we did a much better job of being physical, not letting them move the ball freely, making plays, being aggressive and that’s when we’re at our best.”
Kings head coach Dave Joerger’s views on the game
“Well tonight was a tough night. I thought it was a good first half. We didn’t finish as strong as we needed to. We had a chance to keep the lead at 14-15 and didn’t go into the locker room feeling great at halftime.”
“We did a lot of positive things in the first half. Second half we didn’t make any shots. Our defense was just on the run the whole night and they made shots. I think at the end of the day it came down to who made the shots.”
“I thought we got a ton of looks. Rudy (Gay), DeMarcus (Cousins) – everybody played hard. They had some tougher nights offensively and we’ve got to be able to find some scoring from other places on nights that sometimes the ball goes in, sometimes it doesn’t.
What’s up next on the schedule
The Kings will have no time to lick their wounds and reflect on this loss as they must jump back into action on Friday night in Portland against the Trail Blazers (5-4) for the second game of a back-to-back, home and on-the-road schedule.
The Lakers head to New Orleans where they will play the 1-8 Pelicans on Saturday night.