The Los Angeles Lakers were once again short-handed in their final game before the All-Star break against the Sacramento Kings, playing without LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol.
Those that did play gave a valiant effort though, although the result was a 123-120 loss after a back-and-forth affair
The Lakers’ offense started on an incredible note compared to recent games, hitting eight of their first 13 shots. Dennis Schroder was particularly aggressive in the opening minutes, going 4-for-4 for eight points. At the 5:38 mark of the first quarter, the Lakers held a strong 18-11 lead over the Kings.
Things got even better for L.A. with the introduction of Montrezl Harrell into the lineup. Some defensive plays by him and incredible offense helped balloon the Lakers’ lead to 12, 25-13.
The Kings remained competitive the rest of the quarter as the Lakers turned to guys like Jared Dudley and Alfonzo McKinnie earlier than expected. After one, L.A. led 31-23.
Harrell brought his intensity into the second period, scoring six of the Lakers’ first eight points. He got himself a technical foul but made up for it with an emphatic dunk on the ensuing possession to make it a 10-point game.
Buddy Hield — after a quiet first quarter — caught fire to help the Kings go on a 16-4 run that gave them a 45-43 lead, their first of the game.
Following the Kings’ run, defense became optional for both sides as 21 total points were scored in just over three minutes. The Lakers and Kings shot well over 50% for the first half and L.A. went into the break trailing 63-61 after a buzzer-beater by Richaun Holmes.
The Kings began the second half in complete control, scoring the first six to make it 69-61 less than 90 seconds in. However, that outburst was short-lasting, as a 7-0 run by the Lakers brought them back within one.
After several back-and-forth minutes, the Lakers led by just three when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope checked out of the game after getting a noticeable limp from an awkward landing. A huge defensive highlight from Dudley to end the third quarter gave the Lakers an 88-87 lead going into the fourth and final period.
Harrell continued one of his most dominant performances of the season in the final frame, scoring four of the first six to bring his total to 22. This matched Kyle Kuzma as the game leader for both teams.
Hield quickly took hold of the game-high point total as he simply could not miss for the Kings. Back-to-back threes contributed to them opening up an eight-point lead at the 6:07 mark.
The Lakers were able to fight back to make it a one-possession game with just over 3:30 remaining thanks to a Markieff Morris three. Several plays later, Harrell tied the game at 115 and forced a turnover on the subsequent defensive possession.
De’Aaron Fox and Schroder went back and forth late, scoring a few buckets each, resulting in some lead changes. Schroder drew a foul on Fox on a layup attempt though, giving L.A. a one-point lead and fouling out the opposing point guard out in the process.
Barnes quickly responded with an easy layup though, and then the Lakers couldn’t score on the final possession despite multiple good looks, resulting in the loss.
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