LOS ANGELES — With Kobe Bryant out of the lineup once again, the Los Angeles Lakers once again fell to the Sacramento Kings 106-98.
Los Angeles struggled tremendously shooting in the first quarter hitting just 25 percent of shots along with committing seven turnovers. On the flipside, Sacramento shot 57.1 percent in the period scoring 24 of their 32 overall points in the paint.
Things continued in that direction the second quarter with the Lakers getting no closer than nine points with Darren Collison leading the charge with 15 points in the first half to give his team a 57-41 advantage.
The Lakers were able to trim the deficit to lead to six points in the fourth quarter, but Kings had a response for each surge. Sacramento was led with three scorers with 20 points or more led by DeMarcus Cousins and Collison with 22 each.
It marked the first time in 54 seasons that the Kings have swept the Lakers in the regular season. Here are five things we learned on Tuesday night:
Russell struggles again
Coming off a porous performance against the New York Knicks that saw him sit on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, Russell struggled once again posting 14 points on 4-of-9 shooting and more turnovers (five) than assists (three) in the loss but did tie his career high with four steals.
He got off to a sluggish start to the game missing his first two shots of the game while also committing a pair of turnovers. He didn’t become a factor until the fourth quarter helping the team close to the gap to within six points by scoring seven points in the period, but it was the slow first half and poor ball handling that best exemplify the type of night it was.
“If we can get everybody on the same page, including myself and try to bring that that energy and take it to another level. when the game starts instead of feeling like we have to warm up during the game,” Russell said. “That’s what warms up are for before.”
Heading into Tuesday night’s tilt, the 20-year-old he been quite productive in his return to the starting lineup 11 games prior by averaging 19.5 points, on 46 percent shooting from the field including 46.4 percent from 3-point range along with 4.5 assists. Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns will be an opportunity to bounce back from the last two games.
Following a disastrous first quarter against the New York Knicks, the Lakers got off to another porous start shooting just 25 percent from the field including 0-for-6 from 3-point range that contributed to them trailing by as many as 19 points in the period.
Los Angeles began the game miss seven of their first eight shots missing while committing seven turnovers that accounted for 12 of the 18 fast break points for Sacramento. It also didn’t help that allowed the Kings to shoot 57.1 percent from the field, including 24 out of their 32 points in the period coming from within the paint.
“I have no idea. If I knew I would fix it to be honest with you,” Scott said. “For the first three games, they were averaging 14 points alone better than us in the first quarter. It was 17 tonight and it was an uphill battle for the rest of the game. We haven’t learned to come out and play for 48 minutes every single night.”
This dug the Lakers into a deep hole that they had trouble climbing out of throughout the remainder of the game.
“They just play harder than us all time,” Jordan Clarkson said. “We turned the ball over a lot. Something we have to figure out right now.”
It has been quite a frustrating season in many regards for the Kings, but their star center is in the midst of his best campaign of his career averaging a career-high 27.4 points with 11.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game entering Tuesday’s game.
Cousins continued that against the Lakers posting 22 points with eight rebounds, and four blocks. He struggled in the first half hitting just one out of his first five shot attempts but managed to score seven points with six rebounds. The 25-year-old added to that with 15 points in the second half that helped keep Los Angeles at bay.
“He’s just a big dude,” Julius Randle said of Cousins. “With his skill and the way he plays, he’s a tough matchup.”
Although he has had a rocky relationship with head coach George Karl, Cousins has been a bright spot on the court currently leads the Kings in points, rebounds, and blocks while ranking fourth in the league in scoring and fifth in rebounding. He has seventeen 30-point, 10-rebound double-doubles this season, which is the second-most in a season in the Sacramento era behind Chris Webber’s 20 during the 2000-01 season.
Rondo’ all-around night
In his first season with the Kings, Rajon Rondo has been quite impressive averaging a double-double with 11.9 points and a league-leading 11.9 assists along 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Rondo added to his strong year putting up triple-double like numbers with nine points, 12 assists, and six rebounds along with four steals. He involved in all facets of the game throughout making his presence felt on both ends of the floor despite committing six turnovers.
He may not have been selected to the All-Star Game this season, but Rondo is playing like an absolute All-Star having dished out 10 or more assists in 43 games this season, which extends his Sacramento-era single-season record.
He has also recorded 15 or more assists in 19 games this season, including tallying the six highest single-game assist totals in Kings’ history with a pair of 20-assist performances. The 30-year-old has tied a single-season franchise record with five triple-doubles this season. With all that in mind, it’s safe to assume that his play is putting him in line for a lucrative this upcoming offseason.
No defending the paint
As it has been all season long, the Lakers were dominated by an opponent in the paint giving up 60 points against the Kings on Tuesday night.
Sacramento made a living in the paint in the first quarter scoring 24 out of their 32 points in that area of the floor that included 18 fast break points. This significantly contributed to the Lakers falling in a big hole that proved to be too big to dig themselves out for the remainder of the game.
Los Angeles entered the contest ranking dead last in the league giving up 47.1 points in the paint to opponents. It has by far been their biggest issue with their lack of perimeter defense at times has given way to higher percentage shots in the paint. This is something that they must look to improve over the offseason.
Bob Garcia IV
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