After another gut-wrenching loss, the Lakers traveled to Sacramento to finish their four game road trip. This game was crucial for the Lakers, who have only won one game out of their last five, as they face a Kings team that has led the league in scoring, 108 points per game, since the All-Star break. The Lakers have not beat the Kings yet this season, but good news for the Lakers is Steve Nash played through hip pains and Kobe Bryant played through a bone spur in his left foot.
The playoff hour glass is almost empty, and the Lakers are hanging onto the eighth seed by a thread. In order to beat the Kings, the Lakers need to establish their offense from the inside out. The Kings like to penetrate from the perimeter, utilizing their quick guards, Thomas, Thornton, and Evans. When Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard are able to beat their defenders on the block, their opponents offense decelerates, which is a major advantage for the Lakers. Another huge factor has been the Lakers turnovers, which is an average of 15 per game.
The Kings were the first to put points on the scoreboard with a jumper from Thomas. Steve Nash began to control the game after an easy lay-up and an assist off a Pau Gasol jumper. Unfortunately on the next possession Steve Nash left the game limping, and did not return. Steve Blake took over the point guard position and sank a three from the corner. The Lakers continued to look for Dwight on the block who not only dunked on Cousins, but was able to find Pau and Jodie Meeks for wide open shots. The Kings offense was equally distributed, led by Thomas, Salmons, and Cousins.
The Lakers could not buy a basket which led to transition offense for the Kings. The game’s pace was extremely uptempo, which favors the Kings who seemed to make every shot they took. Antawn Jamison, who has been red hot, entered the game but missed two easy bank shots. Kobe did not make a shot in the first quarter, but Laker fans hoped his foot would loosen up as the game continued. On defense, the Lakers are giving the Kings open shots to prevent any penetration. Unfortunately the Kings shot an astounding 71% from the field, 80% from beyond the arch. The score at the end of the first quarter had the Kings winning 25-37.
Chris Duhon finally saw the floor to start the second quarter, and the Lakers started the quarter with an aggressive dunk from Pau Gasol. Earl Clark made his second shot of the night, but Salmons, who had only missed one shot, quickly responded with a jump shot. Kobe and Antawn combined were zero for nine, but Kobe was quick to respond with three crafty drives for field goals. After a 12 point deficit, Kobe brought his team back into the game, scoring eight straight points, and beating Wilt Chamberlain out of the fourth place All-Time Leading Scorer title. Jodie Meeks then cut the King’s lead to two points with a perimeter pump fake which resulted in a one handed dunk.
The Lakers were slow to close out on shooters because of their larger lineup, and the Kings easily capitalized on the open space. Most teams do not consistently shoot 80% the entire game, which is good news for the Lakers who were only three points under. Dwight Howard continued his inside domination, and did a great job of running the floor and developing inside position before the defense was ready. His play frustrated DeMarcus Cousins who punched the scores table and picked up a technical foul. Pau was guarding Cousins on the defensive end and received the brute end of Cousin’s borderline dirty play. Thankfully, Dwight Howard did a great job of helping Pau on the weak side of the basket, and was able to block Cousin’s shot into the third row.
Kobe and Dwight began to run great pick and roll offense. The Kings double teamed Kobe too early, which allowed Dwight to slide to the basket unattended. Dwight led the Lakers with 11 points, but only made one of six free throws. The Kings did a good job closing the half and was able to make five points in the final five seconds of the half. Antawn Jamison missed a rebound which resulted in a Salmons jumper, and Thomas sank a corner three as time expired. The Lakers are doing a good job of protecting the ball, only turning the ball over four times, but the Lakers need to do a better job of putting a hand in the shooter’s face. The first half ended with the Lakers down 53-57.
The Kings started the second half right where they left off with a jumper from Thompson, but the Lakers did a great job of sharing the ball. Kobe picked up his eighth assist with a behind the back pass to Jodie Meeks for a lay-up, Dwight passed out of a double team to Steve Blake for his third spot up three pointer, and Pau found Dwight with his defender sealed off under the basket for an easy dunk. Tyreke Evans played a well-balanced game in the first half, but began looking to be more offensively aggressive, driving through the shorter Jodie Meeks. Kobe answered with an emphatic dunk off a curl cut pass from Pau, his eighth assist.
Dwight Howard picked up his third foul early which forced him to play more timid on the inside. This allowed the Kings to attack the basket like they are accustomed to doing. The Kings starters all had double digits after Isiah Thomas was able to drive to the basket. The Lakers began to run a high pick and roll with Kobe and Dwight, instead of Pau, and the Kings chose to double team Kobe 40 feet from the basket. Kobe did a good job of evading the double team, and was able to find Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison for three pointers. The Kings matched their first half turnovers, which led to easy points for the Lakers. The Lakers finished the quarter with a 14-1 run, taking the lead 82-75.
The short handed Lakers have run out of energy late in their recent games, but Dwight and Kobe still had gas in their tank. The Kings were the first to score off a hustle play from Thorton, who then made a three pointer. But Dwight Howard responded with multiple offensive rebounds, one resulting in an assist to Earl Clark for a two handed jam and the other two surprising made free throws from Dwight. The Lakers pick and roll offense continued to be successful, as Kobe picked up his 12th assist for a Meeks three. But Thorton continued his multiple hustle plays, creating easy points for his teammates. Fortunately the Kings have not figured out how to defend the Lakers pick and roll offense. Kobe ran the pick and roll with Dwight Howard and found Pau at the free throw line, who lobbed the ball to a cutting Dwight Howard for an alley-oop dunk.
The Kings did a good job of putting pressure on the Lakers by creating open shots by aggressively attacking the basket. Jodie Meeks chased Tyreke Evans across the court, but Evans was able to prevail scoring 11 points in the fourth quarter. Evans pushed the ball up the court, beating the Lakers down the court for an easy lay-up. With 24 seconds on the clock, Kobe was fouled shooting a jumper, but only made one of two free throws. The Kings had an opportunity to tie the game with a three pointer. DeMarcus Cousins tried a three pointer with 15 seconds left, but Dwight blocked his shot. The ball was returned to Cousins who bricked up another three with 12 seconds left. Kobe rebounded the ball, made his two free throws, and the Lakers silence the cow bells.
The Lakers did a great job this game taking care of the ball, only turning the ball over eight times. Kobe Bryant controlled this game, only sitting for 20 seconds, and filling the stat sheet with 24 points, 15 assists, and 6 rebounds. Dwight Howard also contributed 24 points and 15 rebounds. Also noteworthy, Steve Blake did a great job replacing Steve Nash with 15 points on five of eight from beyond the arch. The Lakers win 103-98.
In case you missed it, be sure to check out Kobe in our dunk of the week!
Don’t forget to click here to subscribe to our Lakers Nation YouTube Channel!