L.A.

Lakers squeeze past Kings in defensive battle in first preseason win

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — The Los Angeles Lakers took the floor on Sunday night in what turned out to be a low-scoring affair against the Sacramento King that that saw them come out on top 75-69. 

With rookie point guard Lonzo Ball and veteran big man Andrew Bogut sidelined for the contest, here are a few takeaways from the Lakers’ only preseason action at the T-Mobile Arena: 

Lopez Strong Debut

Brook Lopez finally made his Lakers’ debut on Sunday night where he showed some glimpses of what was hoped to come about with his presence on the floor. 

Lopez got on the scoreboard early by scoring 10 of the Lakers’ first 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field that included knocking down a pair of 3-pointers. It was clear that Los Angeles made it a point to get him the ball from the get-go to help him get acclimated and generate quick production.

His first two buckets came in the low post, which he followed up a few possessions later with two 3-pointers from the wing. Lopez added another made field goal to start the second half on an 11-foot jumper that saw him finish the night with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting and three rebounds in 15 minutes action. 

Lopez’s ability to stretch the floor should be a point of emphasis moving forward, especially when Ball returns from his ankle injury. 

Defense Shows Up

For much of the preseason, the Lakers’ have had their fair share of struggles defensively but it was their play on the other end of the floor. 

However, this wasn’t the case on Sunday night as Los Angeles forced the Kings to shoot just 31.2 percent from the field and 28 percent from beyond the arc. This included allowing just 11 points in the first quarter that helped set the tone for the rest of the game. 

It also helped overshadow their offensive struggles for stretches namely for a six-minute stretch in the second quarter where they notched only four points. This leaked over into the second half as they only record four points for the first seven minutes of the quarter that resulted in just 11 points in the period on 23.5 percent (4-of-17) shooting from the field. 

That said, head coach Luke Walton was encouraged by the Lakers play defensively that he had up to that point only seen in practice.

“Defensively I thought it was great,” Walton said. “That was the carryover that I was challenging them at shootaround to do. That’s what we are used to seeing in practice if it’s the drill work or scrimmaging. It was good to see how that feels. I think was good for them to feel that and experience that.”

Kuzma Keeps It Rolling

In yet another game in a Lakers’ uniform, the rookie forward strong together a strong performance tallying 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field along with eight rebounds, and three assists in 27 minutes of action.

Kuzma again displayed much poise and confidence in his play throughout the contest with his shot selection while helping the Lakers’ fourth-quarter surge where he scored seven points while dishing out a pairs assists.

This included a 3-pointer to put his team ahead 64-62 and sealed the win with a solid cut to the basket for a wide-open dunk on an in-bound play with 17 seconds left. In fact, he was involved in the Lakers final five scoring plays. 

Following the game, Walton credited Kuzma’s stellar play in the preseason that has carried over from the Summer League to his competitive nature. 

“That’s how he shows up every day,” Walton said. “He shows to play no matter what is. He is always competing.”

The 22-year-old concurred with Walton’s assessment voicing that believes this will be a key aspect of his development in the NBA moving forward.”

“I’m very competitive,” Kuzma told Sports Out West. “I want to be great in this league and I know all the great players are very competitive.” 

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia IV is a sports journalist from Southern California. He's currently the Los Angeles Lakers beat writer for Sports Out West. He was previously the beat writer for LA Rams Report for Scout.com, which is a website dedicated to covering the Rams. Lastly, he was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.
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