The series of four straight victories is already forgotten at the Lakers, since they bowed for the second time in a row, and this time on the floor of the modest Kings (125-116).
However, LeBron James’ teammates had started the game well, and the return of Stanley Johnson had allowed them to sign a 9-0 to escape (23-15). Malik Monk is 100% on shots, and the Lakers take advantage of Austin Reaves’ hot shot to bring the gap to +12 (51-39) in the second quarter. The ball circulates well, there is enthusiasm, and we started on big bases.
Except that all of a sudden, nothing… While the Lakers were leading by 14 points, they conceded an 8-0 just before the break. Davion Mitchell brings defense and punch, and the Fox-Haliburton duo fit like butter into the Lakers racket. Confirmation of this trend on the return from the locker room since the Kings start with a 5-0. We are on a 13-0 straddling the two halves, and this series turns into… 24-3!
On a 3-pointer from Harrison Barnes, the Kings sign a 15-0 and take a 13-point lead (92-79). LeBron is clumsy, even at throws, and Russell Westbrook is ghostly. Only the youngsters, like Johnson, Monk or Reaves, are at their best, but that’s not defending, and especially Sacramento is playing well.
Buddy Hield stuns the Lakers with a dunk and a 3-pointer at the end of a one-sided quarter (101-90). Thanks to Reaves, then the LeBron-Monk duo, the Lakers will believe in the hold-up, and reduce the gap to two units with 90 seconds remaining (118-116). For the Kings, it’s a real test when the Lakers are on an 8-0, and it’s Fox then especially Chimezie Metu with a big 3-pointer in the axis which sets the room on fire, and validates the victory of Sacramento (125-116).
WHAT YOU MUST REMEMBER
– A one-sided third quarter. The Kings scored 40 points in the 3rd quarter, including a 15-0 midway through the quarter. The Lakers were frozen in attack, as in defense, and De’Aaron Fox punished them.
– The Westbrook problem. The matches follow and look alike for Russell Westbrook. 2 out of 14 on shots last night, but above all 8 out of 40 in the last three matches! And he doesn’t contribute much elsewhere, as if he wasn’t on the same wavelength as the others. The leaders will have to really ask themselves the question of keeping it or not until the end of the season…
– Lakers break even mid-season. 21 wins, 21 losses. So this is the Lakers’ mid-season record, and it’s LeBron James’ worst record since his rookie year!
✅⛔LeBron James. Admittedly, LeBron signs yet another game with 30 points and more, the 11th in 12 games, and he gave it his all until the end. But… his 3 of 12 on 3-point shots and his 5 of 10 on free throws are a stain. In defence, he “rests” even if he tries to close gaps. But at 37, he can’t be everywhere. Frustrated, he was the first to join the locker room.
✅The Fox-Haliburton duo. Their complementarity is more and more evident with this association between speed and composure, aggressiveness and vista. Both took advantage of the Lakers’ defensive largesse to make the difference in the second half.
✅Austin Reaves. This is the real satisfaction of this meeting on the Lakers side. Carmelo Anthony injured, he was the joker coming off the bench, and he brings enthusiasm to the game. At the end of the match, he took risks, proof of his nerve and his confidence. It really is Caruso-like in the energy it brings.
⛔Russell Westbrook. Since the start of the season, we have found excuses for him, but his 12 rebounds and 6 assists, or even his only stray ball, do not compensate for his clumsiness: 20% on shots for four games. Visually, he is a free spirit, who runs around everywhere, and gets rid of the ball at times when his teammates do not necessarily expect it… Defensively, he has never held Fox or Haliburton when he is the first curtain.
Sacramento (17-27) : possibility of continuing with the reception of the Rockets on Friday.
LA Lakers (21-21) : break until Saturday before a trip to Denver.