LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Lakers dropped their fourth straight loss on Wednesday night falling to the Sacramento Kings 112-93 behind DeMarcus Cousins‘ 36 points.
Los Angeles got off to a slow start offensively in the first quarter shooting just 32 percent from the field, including 0-of-5 from three-point range. Conversely, the Kings shot 55 percent outscoring the Lakers alone in the paint with 20 points compared to 18 total giving them a 27-18 edge heading into the second quarter.
The Lakers stayed within striking distance in the second with Kobe Bryant scoring 11 of 13 first-half points. However, Cousins responded with 13 of his first-half high 20 points to give the Kings a 57-52 lead at the half.
Sacramento gained separation in the third quarter going on a 20-6 run to stretch their advantage to 16 points late in the third quarter. The Kings maintained a healthy double-digit throughout the final period.
Bryant finished with 15 points and four rebounds. Lou Williams scored points. Brandon Bass recorded a season-high 18 points with seven rebounds. D’Angelo Russell chipped in with 14 points and five assists.
“To me, the biggest key is that you got to get off to a good start,” Lakers head coach Byron Scott said. “You can’t always be on your heels. You got to be in attack mode, but you got to play smart. For whatever reason this team we just come out a little lackadaisical fighting to get back in it. That take so much energy out of us and makes it so much harder.”
It marked the Lakers’ sixth consecutive loss to the Kings, here are five things we learned from Wednesday loss:
Bryant’s feeling great physically
It wasn’t much a surprise that the 37-year-old gave it a go against the Kings on Wednesday given the team had a couple days of layover between the team’s last game.
Bryant scored 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 30 minutes played. He had his biggest offensive output in the second quarter scoring nine points in the period, including a pair of three-pointers. His scoring tittered off dramatically in the second half getting his two points from the free throw line.
“He said he felt good tonight,” Scott said. “He moved well and felt good. Those two things helped, and now the schedule goes to three games in four days. This is the real test.”
Scott added that he expects Bryant to play in the back-to-back on Friday night at home against the San Antonio Spurs and Saturday on the road against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Rondo’s resurgent season
Since signing a one-year, $10 million deal in the offseason with the Kings, Rondo has rekindled his career in his 10th season playing like an All-Star averaging 11.7 points, 11.6 assists, and 6.4 rebounds entering Wednesday’s game.
He added to his strong campaign by posting 11 points and 17 assists giving him his 18th double-double. He dished a first-half high nine assists and an impressive one-hand facial dunk over Ryan Kelly in the second quarter.
Rondo continued to slash the Lakers with his passing the second half notching eight assists that gave him his 11 games this season with 15 or more assists, which is the second-most in Kings’ history for most in a single season behind Reggie Theus, who had 13 games with that feat during the 1985-86 season.
The change of scenery has certainly Rondo recapture his form as one of the elite point guards by leading the league by nearly two assists per game and is 10th in steals per game (1.9). He could also become the first Kings’ player to lead the league in assist since Nate “Tiny” Archbald did so in 1971-72 season. Rondo already has the four highest assist totals in a single game in the Kings’ history in Sacramento.
What Rondo has shown more than anything that he’s back to being a serious threat to notch a triple-double every game, which his four this season is currently third-highest total in the league and one short of tying the franchise record set by Chris Webber.
It’s clear that Rondo has made a tremendous impact in his first season in the Kings’ offseason seeing them jump to fourth in the NBA in field goal percentage and third in points scored, which they ranked 13 and 14th respectively last year. All in all, Rondo is back to playing like one of the league’s best players.
To say that the 25-year-old was on fire in the month of January entering Wednesday’s game is an understatement as he was averaging 31.1 points on 48.9 percent shooting from the field, including 45.5 percent from three-point range, with 13.4 rebounds in eight games played.
Cousins has recorded 30 or more points in six of the last eight games, including nailing at two or more three-pointers in five out of the last six contests. For January, he ranks first in points and is third in total points, third in rebounds, second in field goals made, and tied with Russell Westbrook for second-most double-doubles (seven).
The Kings’ All-Star center added to his strong month by posting his 24th double-double of the season with a game-high 36 points and 16 rebounds. Cousins tore up the Lakers in the first half to the tune of a first-half high 20 points, including 13 scored in the second quarter. He continued his dominance in the second half scoring 16 points and added nine rebounds.
“He’s tough,” Randle said of Cousins. “He’s the toughest in my opinion. He’s a load, he’s hard to move.”
In his sixth season, Cousins has only further solidified his status as the best center in the league that is complete package on both sides on the floor. He’s definitely a huge reason for the team remaining in playoff contention through this point of the season.
“I’m just trying to make a push,” Cousins said. “I’m just trying to play my part. Whatever it’s going to take to get this team over the hump.”
Randle shooting woes
The second-year forward once again drew the start for the second straight game with Larry Nance Jr. still dealing with a sore right knee. Randle put up another productive night on the glass with 12 rebounds but struggled with his shot scoring just six points on 2-of-11 shooting.
With a tough matchup against one of the game’s premier big men in Cousins, Randle struggled early on missing his first four shots of the game in first six minutes of the game. He was able to knock down his next two shots with a couple of layups in the paint.
However, his shooting woes continued as he finished night missing his last five shots. Randle struggled mightily to get going offensively against the Kings’ defense primarily on Cousins. It was a game that Scott felt that his young forward wasn’t forcing his shot, but just had a tough shooting night near the rim.
“I don’t think he was forcing things,” Scott said. “I thought once he got offensive rebounds he just couldn’t finish. Tonight he just couldn’t finish in the paint. I thought he played a pretty under control game.”
This is coming off the heels his first start in over a month on Sunday’s 112-95 loss to the Houston Rockets, where he recorded his 14th double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Randle has been quite productive in the starting lineup this season averaging a near double-double with 11.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in 21 games played. With the team still evaluating Nance Jr.’s knee with the next checkup set for Thursday, expect the 21-year-old to continue to get more starts in the meantime.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Los Angeles ranked last in the league in points in the paint allowed 46.9 points and were giving up 52.7 points over the last three contests.
It was the same old story for the Lakers defensively against the Kings with a porous effort defending the paint allowing 58 points to a Sacramento team that had more points in the paint (20) in the first quarter than Los Angeles had total points in the period. They jumped up to 34 points in the paint at the half with 12 points coming on the fast break.
Things didn’t improve in the second half for the Lakers giving up 20-plus points in the paint with the Kings adding 14 points in transition over the final two quarters of play. All in all, it was a performance that was a prime example of the utter lack of defense that Los Angeles has had this season.
“Obviously, the solution is to play better defense on the perimeter,” Scott said. “We are just getting blow bys sometimes and guys are catching it and getting right by us. The second part if you got a DeMarcus you got to keep him out of there.”
Bob Garcia IV
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