Sunday night the Lakers would take on the Kings without Kobe Bryant and try to pull within half a game of the Houston Rockets, who currently possess the seven seed in the Western Conference. The surging Lakers are also still without Pau Gasol, who eyes next week as his return from a torn plantar fasciitis. The offense would need contributions from other role players for the second straight game, as Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison looked to repeat stellar performances from off the bench. A win would also a full game ahead of Utah in the playoff race and just two games behind Golden State for the sixth seed. The Kings would be missing DeMarcus Cousins. A blowout win providing rest to the starters would be great for the Lakers, who face the Suns tomorrow night in Phoenix.[GET $5 FREE WHEN YOU ENTER EARLY FOR SPORTSBOOK’S $100,000 BRACKET CHALLENGE]
The Lakers started with Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Metta World Peace, Earl Clark, and Dwight Howard. The first basket of the game came to Isaiah Thomas of the Kings, before the Lakers quickly responded with a jumper from Nash. The Kings looked to do damage with their backcourt while the Lakers looked to pound the ball inside. Steve Nash continued to excellently run the offense as he found a cutting Earl Clark on the ensuing possession. The Kings had no answer for Dwight Howard, who was controlling the game from the post. The Kings did, however, get an offensive boost on outside jump shots as the teams traded baskets early.
The first substitution came at the seven minute mark when Antawn Jamison replaced Earl Clark. The Lakers had trouble defending the perimeter, as quick three pointers from Tyreke Evans and Patrick Patterson gave the Kings a two point lead. Outside jump shots from Jamison and World Peace allowed the Lakers to regain the lead. Steve Blake nailed a three immediately after being inserted into the game, as he picked up right where he left off on Friday night. Transition defense and poor rotations once again hurt the Lakers, however, as Patrick Patterson continued to make outside jumpers.
By the end of the first quarter, the Lakes remained hot on offense and led 33-27.
The Laker bench was spectacular on Friday night and was putting together a solid night on Sunday. They would need to keep it up, however, for the Lakers to expand the lead. As the Laker defense continued to struggle, Dwight Howard and Earl Clark punished the Kings in the paint. Another three pointer from Jamison just two minutes into the quarter followed by a free throw from Meeks pushed the Laker lead into double figures. Tony Douglas and Chuck Hayes responded for Sacramento, though, as they attempted to pull closer to L.A. As the Laker offense went through a cold spell, Dwight Howard’s inside presence limited the Kings.
A three pointer by Marcus Thornton and a fastbreak layup cut the Laker lead to two before a dunk from Dwight Howard. Another dunk from Dwight pushed the Laker’s cushion back up to six with just under six minutes to go. As the period progressed, it was the Sacramento offense that went cold as the Lakers pushed their lead back to eight by penetrating inside. The Kings once again had an answer as Patrick Patterson was on fire late in the half. The Kings continued to kill the Lakers from the perimeter as a three from John Salmons cut the Laker lead to two before a fastbreak dunk tied the game.
At halftime, an incredibly balanced Laker team effort on offense was not met with the same intensity on defense and the score was tied at 56.
The Lakers entered the third period looking to clean up their defensive effort while maintaining positive energy on offense. Offensively, the Lakers looked to keep running the game through Dwight while also achieving scoring balance. Patrick Patterson continued his hot shooting for the Kings as he hit another jumper before an offensive foul by Dwight on the other end. The Lakers, however, regained the lead with a corner three by World Peace. Another outside jumper from MWP and a stepback shot from Nash were answered by jumpers from Isaiah Thomas. The Lakers and Kings traded baskets in this seesaw game as Jamison and Blake reentered the game with over eight minutes to go. As the game remained tight, the Lakers had their largest lead of the quarter at three after Steve Blake drilled a three.
A two point jumper from Blake gave the Lakers the first two possession lead for either team at five points as the Lakers continued their balanced effort. The lead disappeared quickly, however, as Isaiah Thomas continued to wreak havoc. Two beautiful layups from World Peace gave the Lakers another fice point lead as Thomas finally cooled down. The very next possession included a beautiful pass from Nash to Jamison who expertly slipped a screen. As the Lakers had their largest lead of the half at seven, Sacramento called timeout. The Lakers ended the quarter with an offensive surge from Steve Blake and Antawn Jamison.
By the end of three quarters, the Lakers led 86-76.
The Lakers entered the quarter with their lead back to double figures after playing good defense. They looked to close out the game and earn the victory over the pesky Kings by clamping down further on defense. So far, the offense had great balance as reserves Jamison and Blake continue to step up. The quarter began with the Lakers looking to Dwight on offense, as the Kings could not match his size. Although Dwight missed both free throws, the Lakers responded on the defensive end by forcing a shot clock violation. On the other end another sweet jumper from Steve Blake pushed the Laker lead to twelve, their largest of the game.
On the defensive end, the Lakers were doing an excellent job containing one of the best offensive teams. The team defense with proper rotations that has been present in the past week showed once again early in the fourth quarter. The Kings, however, picked on Jodie Meeks and hit several spectacular shots to cut the lead down to six. A great move from Tyreke Evans cut the Laker lead to four and forced a prompt Laker timeout. A quick jumper from Marcus Thornton cut the Laker lead to two in a stunning turn of events. Outside jumpers from Nash and Blake put the Lakers back up by seven and gave them a little cushion as Dwight was taking over on defense. A three pointer from Nash put the Lakers back up by ten and allowed many Laker fans to exhale after Antawn Jamison hit yet another three pointer.
At the end of the night, a balanced offensive effort supported by the scorching hot bench play of Jamison and Blake led the Lakers to victory, 113-102.