By Charlie O. Mallonee
No one likes to play the LA Lakers at Staples Center. The crowd, the stars and “show time” make for major distractions. If you have to play the Lakers at home, an opposing team would like LA to have a losing record and be without Kobe Bryant (Achilles) and Steve Nash (nerve irritation). That was the scenario for the Sacramento Kings to take advantage of on Sunday night in SoCal.
In order to have good showing versus the Lakers, the Kings needed to break the cycle of falling 15 to 20 points behind in the first quarter then fighting their way back into the game. This would be even more important against a Lakers team that loves to run.
The tempo was fast and furious in the first period as the teams traded scoring. The Kings were led by Greivis Vasquez with 13 points and DeMarcus Cousins who scored eight points as the team put up 24 points. Sacramento shot 45.5% (10/22) in the quarter. After one period of play, the Lakers led the Kings 29-24 as Sacramento showed much improved play in the first quarter.
The second quarter started off with the Lakers being on fire. They were running and gunning as they hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer in transition and quickly took a 13 point lead. The Kings rather than lying down and blaming their play on it being the second game of a back-to-back fought their way back into contention trailing by just seven – 55-48 – at halftime.
The Kings shot 50.0% (21/42) for the half. Most those points came inside the arc as they shot just 25.0% (3/7) from 3-point land. Vazquez led all Kings scorers with 15 points.
The Lakers shot 46.7% (21/45) from the field. They shot just 31.2% (5/16) from beyond the 3-point line. The Lakers have averaged 41.0% for 3-pointers on the season. Pau Gasol led the Lakers with 14 points in the half.
The third quarter was not a picture of perfection. Both teams struggled early. The Kings closed the Laker lead to two points but could contain LA. The Kings did not hit the outside shots and scored just 13 points in the quarter. The Lakers scored just 18 points. After three quarters, the Lakers led 73-61.
The Kings came out in fourth quarter looking like a young team that was playing the second game of back-to-back road games. The defense just went away and the shooting percentage kept falling. Couple that with the Lakers improved 3-point shooting and it was a recipe for disaster. The Lakers went on to win the game 100-86.
Greivis Vasquez led the Kings in scoring with 20 points. He added seven assists. DeMarcus Cousins finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Ben McLemore posted 15 points for the game. McLemore tried to provide a spark for the Kings with his play in the fourth quarter. You can see the potential for the young rookie to become a game changer as he gains more experience.
The Kings shot 41.7% (35/84) from the field and 33.3% (8/24) for 3-pointers. The most glaring stat was the pitiful 53.3% (8/15) from the free throw line.
Pau Gasol finished with a double-double – 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers shot 46.0% from the field and 30.8% from beyond the 3-point line.
COMING UP: The Kings will be able to get some rest this week as they will not play again until the Friday after Thanksgiving. The Kings will play the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night. You know the Kings will up for that game after the stinging 103-102 loss on Saturday to the Clippers. Then on Sunday, the Kings Northern California brethren the Golden State Warriors pay a call on Sleep Train Arena. It will be quite the way to cap off a Thanksgiving Weekend.