The Los Angeles Lakers are back to .500 after picking up a win over the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night. It was a much-needed win for a Lakers team that had been under fire for their rocky start to the 2018-19 NBA season.
The Lakers went into the day unsure if starting point guard Lonzo Ball would play after turning his ankle in practice, but he decided to give it a go and square off with college rival De’Aaron Fox, who has had a nice start to the season in Sacramento.
Despite the win, Ball may have wished he hadn’t played after getting thoroughly outdueled by Fox, who led the Kings with 21 points.
With the Lakers and the Kings near the top of the league in pace, there was little doubt that the game was going to feature back-and-forth action. Both teams look to push the ball at every opportunity, which creates an environment for an exciting game, although it surprisingly wasn’t high scoring, at least by the standards of this season’s NBA.
With the Lakers record sitting at five wins and six losses, they were hoping to claw their way back to .500.
The Lakers used ball movement and stingy defense in order to jump out to a 16-point lead in the first half. They put the Kings in tough situations, forcing live-ball turnovers and missed shots, which Los Angeles took advantage of.
However, a spell of turnovers from Lance Stephenson and Tyson Chandler allowed the Kings to get a pair of easy dunks part of the way through the second, which changed the momentum of the game and allowed them to go on a run to end the half that cut Los Angeles’ lead to just six.
The Kings, who played three games in the previous four days, began the second half with energy but then quickly faded. The Lakers kept the pace up against their weary rivals from Sacramento, getting quality minutes from Chandler, Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, Josh Hart, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope off the bench.
Stephenson, who has been used sparingly recently, was particularly impressive with his work on the boards and timely shooting.
LeBron James seemed to be coasting through much of the game but still managed an impressive stat line with 25 points, including three three-pointers.
The game wasn’t always pretty and didn’t feature the scoring that was expected out of two teams who thrive on flying up and down the floor, but the Lakers will gladly take the win.
Next up is the Atlanta Hawks at home on Sunday night.