LOS ANGELES — In their season finale on Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Lakers ended their disastrous season on a low note with a blowout 122-99 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
The game quickly got out of hand from the start as the Lakers fell quickly to a double-digit deficit in the first quarter. From that point they could never truly recover as they fell behind by as many as 29 points in the game.
What didn’t help was the fact that the Lakers had just eight healthy bodies for the game with just two guards available. On top of that, the Kings blew the gates open in the second quarter by shooting 71 percent from the field.
Los Angeles fought back in the third quarter behind Jabari Brown’s 19 of his career-best 32 points in the period that got them as close as 11 points. However, it wasn’t enough as Sacramento’s balanced offensive attack allowed them to cruise past their Pacific Division foe.
Kings finished with seven players in double figures, and had a 58-40 edge in points in the paint. They also had two players with 20-plus points as Ben McLemore scored 24 points, and Derrick Williams chipped in with a bench high 22 points.
Adding to the loss, it also set the franchise record for lowest winning percentage of any team in franchise history, surpassing the 1957-58 Minneapolis team’s .264 with a 19-53 regular season record.
With the regular season now complete, here are five things we learned from the Lakers on Wednesday night:
Blue takes advantage
In his second game with the Lakers, the 22-year-old played the entire game and had himself quite a night with 15 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
After going 1-of-4 shooting to start the game, Blue picked up knocking down his next two shots in the period with a 3-pointer and a driving layup. He finished the opening quarter with a team-high seven points.
In the second quarter, he followed it up a steal and threw a bullet pass to Ryan Kelly in transition for the layup. Blue scored five points in the period, and was tied with a team-leading 12 points at the half.
In the second half, Blue showed more of his versatility as played more of a facilitator role as he dished out five assists, and had four rebounds. That said, he also struggled with his shot as he went 1-of-11 shooting in the final two quarters.
This performance followed his first game on Monday also against the Kings, where he was more selective with his shot scoring seven points on 3-of-7 shooting with two rebounds, and two assists in 26 minutes played.
All in all, Blue feels that the last two games he was able to show his all-around game.
“Just my versatility to play the point and play off the ball a little bit,” Blue said. “Just my ability to get guys involved and show my ability and my will to want to win. I feel like every play I am going to go out there and give it my all and try to get my teammates better. I’m only 22, I know I got to do the little things to get out there.”
Like many of the players on the Lakers’ roster, the 22-year-old is hoping that the two games he played showed enough that he belongs in the NBA with Los Angeles or another team. Blue has limited NBA experience as he played in just three games with the Boston Celtics under a 10-day contract.
He had excelled in the D-league this season with the Los Angeles Defenders averaging 23.3 points on 47.3% shooting with 5.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists in 49 games played. He was even named to the NBA D-League All-Star team, and was the only player to average at least 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Blue has shown a definite knack for scoring as he had 30 games of 30-plus points, and two games of 40-plus.
All in all, Blue is hoping that he is given a opportunity to make in the NBA next season.
Hill’s consistent production
With a roster decimated by injuries, Hill was one of the players to benefit as he scored 12 point with six rebounds in the loss.
Hill was active in the first half with a team-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting with three rebounds. He scored in a variety of ways from the low post, mid range, and had a putback.
In the third quarter, the 27-year-old was quiet going scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting, including missing a 3-pointer to be the buzzer, but he did manage to grab four rebounds in the period. That said, much of his lack of offense was due to the play of Brown in the quarter scoring a quarter-best 19 points.
It was an end to a frustrating season that Hill also experienced a roller coaster in terms of his role on the team. He was able to set career highs in points (12.0), rebounds (8.0), and starts (56), but he to was a victim of Scott’s decision to play younger players.
This in turn led to players such as Tarik Black, Robert Sacre, and Ed Davis playing over him in the starting lineup on occasions, and he had even sat out four straight games before the last two games of the season.
With all that in mind, Hill will enter the offseason with his future with the Lakers up in the air as the team holds team option for the second year of his two year, $18 million contract. In all likelihood the team may bring him back next season, but depending on what moves they make in the summer all that could change.
Brown sets career-high
With a prime opportunity to get ample playing time, Brown shined as he set a career-high 32 points in the loss to the Kings.
It was a slow start for the 22-year-old as he missed his all four of his shot attempts in the first quarter, and was 1-of-8 shooting through the first half.
However, Brown caught fire in the third quarter notching a quarter-best 19 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including with a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity strip in the period, and had all but five of the team’s 24 points. He was also a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, and got the Lakers back into striking distance at 86-75 with 2:19 left in the quarter after back-to-back 3-pointers.
After the game, the rookie guard thought it was the fact that he was able to gather himself at half that allowed him to get in rhythm in third quarter.
“I had a really bad first half,” Brown said, who had 29 points in the second half. “I just had to regroup and just try to take good shots so I was able to get to the line. I think that kind of got me going.”
It was a performance that Brown displayed his entire offensive repertoire by scoring in transition, catch-and-shoot plays, drives to the basket, and on pull-up jumpers.
Unlike many of his teammates, Brown is signed through next season on a non-guaranteed deal and is likely a prime candidate to return. It also expected that he will be on the Lakers’ summer league team, where that could ultimately be the turning point of whether or not he’s on next year’s roster.
The Lakers began the game on the wrong foot by falling to a early double-digit deficit, but in reality what doomed them was their play in the second quarter.
They allowed the Kings to shoot an eye-popping 71 percent from the field, and went 8-of-11 from the free throw line in the period. That outburst kept Sacramento ahead with a comfy lead throughout the quarter, and made the second half an uphill battle with no end in sight.
For Scott, it was a lack-luster defensive performance that he felt his team played with less than 100 percent effort against the Kings.
“To be honest with you, I’m not happy right now,” Scott said. “With the way we played tonight, I thought the effort could have been better than it was tonight. I’ll think about that tomorrow, but right now I’m not happy.”
Their overall play in the second half was quite frustrating as well as the Kings shot 53 percent from the field, outscored Lakers 28-12 in points in the paint, and pushed their lead to as many as 29 points in the fourth quarter.
It was performance that could sum up the Lakers’ season that was filled with much disappointment, and in many ways was quite unwatchable basketball for fans. Now they head into the offseason with a bitter taste in their mouth after a record setting season in losses and lowest win percentage, but Scott is confident it will be a complete 180 next year.
“Obviously it doesn’t sit with me well,” Scott said. “I don’t like the sound of that, but it will be a remarkable story when we turn this around.”
Injuries, injuries, injuries
If anything was indicative of the Lakers’ 2014-15 season, it was the injury bug as they had a team-record 339 combined missed games.
In Wednesday’s season finale, Los Angeles had just as many players sitting out due to injury (eight) to as many healthy players to play. They were also forced to play both Blue and Brown the full 48 minutes because they were the only two healthy guards left on the roster.
In total the Lakers have lost nine players to season-ending injuries this season including Dwight Buycks, Jeremy Lin, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ronnie Price, Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Wayne Ellington, and Julius Randle. Blue was also the 11th player and fifth rookie to make his debut for the Lakers this season.
What was worst about it is that both of their remaining healthy guards were late-season additions from their D-League afflilate, Los Angeles Defenders.
Also adding to that was that they were also paper thin at small forward with no healthy players at the position forcing Scott to play Ryan Kelly and Carlos Boozer.
This is not to say that the Lakers without any significant injuries this season would have been a playoff team, but they would have definitely finished with a better record.
Bob Garcia IV
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