Lakers striker LeBron James handles the ball while Marvin Bagley III of the Sacramento Kings defends in the first half of the game in Sacramento on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers Guard Russell Westbrook and Sacramento Kings striker Chimezie Metu will fight for position under the basket in the first half of the game in Sacramento on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker shot a shot over the center of the Sacramento Kings, Alex Len, in the first half of the game on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Injured Lakers striker Anthony Davis, center, speaks to coaches during a break in the first half of their game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers striker LeBron James dunks in the first half of Wednesday night’s game against the Kings in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers striker LeBron James (right) speaks to umpire Derek Richardson during a break in the first half of the game against the Kings in Sacramento on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers security guard Russell Westbrook attempts to drive down on Sacramento Kings security guard Davion Mitchell (left) during the first half of the game on Wednesday night in Sacramento. Westbrook had another tough shooting night, only taking four of 26 shots in the last two games. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings security guard Tyrese Haliburton blocks a shot from Lakers security guard Avery Bradley in the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings security guard De’Aaron Fox drives past Lakers security guard Austin Reaves in Sacramento in the second half on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers striker LeBron James will be defended by Sacramento Kings striker Marvin Bagley III in the second half on Wednesday evening in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers striker LeBron James reacts after missing a 3-point shot in the second half of the game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield (right) speaks to reigning head coach Alvin Gentry during the second half of the game against the Lakers on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings striker Marvin Bagley III pulls the ball from the outstretched arms of Lakers security guard Russell Westbrook as Lakers striker Stanley Johnson watches the back of the second half in Sacramento on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers striker LeBron James dies in Sacramento during the second half on Wednesday night while he is defended by Sacramento Kings center Alex Len (right) and Guard De’Aaron Fox (left). (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings striker Chimezie Metu hangs on the sidelines after dunking in Sacramento in the second half of the game against the Lakers on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers security guard Russell Westbrook listens to coach Frank Vogel in the second half of the game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings Guard De’Aaron Fox, right, falls when he faces Lakers striker LeBron James, who goes into the basket in the second half in Sacramento in the second half on Wednesday night. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Lakers striker LeBron James dunks in the second half of their game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
Sacramento Kings striker Chimezie Metu celebrates after taking a 3-point shot against the Lakers in the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo / José Luis Villegas)
After weeks of construction, the Lakers’ opponents don’t just say the quiet part out loud – they boom from the rafters.
When Russell Westbrook missed a shot at the Golden 1 Center on Wednesday night, the Sacramento Kings gaming operations quickly fell victim to a clip of Foreigner’s « Cold As Ice » to mock him. And all evening Westbrook gave them plenty of reasons to play the clip again.
Westbrook wasn’t the only Laker to contend with a 125:16 loss to the Kings, but he glanced at the final meaningful shot of the game – an open look at the 3-point line – and missed him with 1:07 left with the edge at four points. It was the last of his 12 misses, an undeniable low for Westbrook (eight points, 2 for 14 off the field), whose shooting has been below par for weeks.
Nonetheless, Westbrook found a kind of gallows humor that Sacramento had fun at its expense: « I hope you have played that for the last 14 years. It’s funny that they’re playing it now. That’s cute. «
However, when the Lakers sank back to .500 (21:21), their defense failed to contain the Kings breakneck attack and left them in lane. Sacramento shot better overall than 55%, led by De’Aaron Fox with 29 points, and the Kings scored a staggering 70 points in the color.
James, who led the scorer list with 34 points, also had his problems on the offensive: He only got 13-29 off the field, including a 3-to-12 mark from 3-point range. The Lakers’ best individual bright spots were Malik Monk, who made six 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, and Austin Reaves, who had the best 19 points of his career. These three were the only Lakers to score in the double digits.
All three were a factor as the Lakers reduced a late deficit from 13 points to two with only 1:36 points. Reaves did a pull-up, then the Lakers did something they couldn’t do all night: defensive stops. Monk blocked a shot that resulted in a layup by James, then James earned a strip that resulted in a layup by Monk. The perfect ingredients for a comeback lay ahead when James rebounded a Harrison Barnes miss (23 points) and took it coast to coast for a quick break layup.
Fox slowed the rally seconds later with a jumper in the lane. Then Westbrook took his candid gaze a little over a minute from the end, but his fifth 3-point attempt clattered like everyone else. Chemezie Metu (14 points) secured victory with a 3-pointer as Sacramento sped back to the ground.
Westbrook had 12 rebounds and six assists on just one turnover, but the shooting slump was not to be ignored. Towards the end of the third quarter, he pulled the shot clock early for a missed 3-point attempt, then flipped the ball – the mistakes resulted in five Sacramento points.
In the last nine games when the Lakers switched to smaller lineups, Westbrook only shot 34.8% out of the field. He hasn’t made a 3-pointer in his last six games despite 16 attempts. And although Westbrook can often be cryptic and terse in his post-game press conferences, he took charge on Wednesday night.
« I have no excuses, » he said. “For me, I don’t point a finger. I always just look at myself and find ways to get better. But one thing I never do is panic. I never lack confidence in my things and what I can do. But I am and will put more pressure on myself to get better, especially on the offensive and to make sure we move forward. »
The fourth quarter was probably not even the one that lost the Lakers the chance to gain the lead of the season series over the Kings. They were outdone by 40:23 in the third game – a reminder of some of the problems they faced early in the season to compete after half time.
For long stretches in the first half, the Lakers seemed reasonably under control. That confidence peaked in the second quarter when Monk (who took his first four shots) hit a stepback 3-pointer and soon found Dwight Howard for a layup. With 2:19 in the half, James made a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 14-point cushion.
But they couldn’t keep that lead before the break. The Kings scored eight points in a row to end half-time, with the final four coming from Fox, whose light-footed play kept the Lakers defense on their heels all evening. Sacramento scored six more unanswered points early in the third quarter and took control of the game.
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Coach Frank Vogel said he thinks too often the Lakers have left their teammates on an island to beat them one on one.
« The defense let us down for the second game in a row, » said Vogel. “In the last game (against Memphis), second and third quarters. This game, the third quarter. So we have to find out what we’re doing there and be better in this situation. »
The Lakers have two days before their next game, against reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in Denver.
While James admitted that reaching .500 and finishing seventh in the Western Conference standings is disappointing after half time, he still believes it’s possible to get to competitive levels.
« When you’re trying to fight for position or prepare for the playoffs, you want to get started at the right time, » he said. “We now have 42 games (finished) and 40 left, and let’s see what we’re made of. But so far it has definitely been a roller coaster ride. »
« I have no excuses. I don’t point my finger for myself. I’m always looking for ways to get better. » @ russwest44 about his current slump. pic.twitter.com/Z34mPcONPm
« We weren’t guarding anyone to close this neighborhood … It felt like we’d made an offensive decision. » Frank Vogel with @LakersReporter about the difference on the route for the #Lakers. pic.twitter.com/CvmcQ5RGy5
« Our team is built on depth and we haven’t had that for most of the season. » @KingJames on the #Lakers’ plight this year. pic.twitter.com/ZnyRxQ3ywo
« I’m just trying to do my job, try to get up and do big shots. » Austin Reaves on his current career with high scoring nights. pic.twitter.com/rIA7MD11NK
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