After a long offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers finally returned to the court on Monday night when they kicked off the 2022-23 preseason by hosting the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers had a strong first half but were not able to maintain in the second half, ultimately falling 105-75.
New Lakers head coach Darvin Ham expects to try out a few different lineups but to start he went with Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Damian Jones in this one.
That group got off to a quick start with Westbrook driving to the hole for a layup and then Nunn drilling a 3-pointer, his first shot in about a year after missing all of last season with a bone bruise in his knee.
Westbrook continued to put pressure on the rim, creating shots for both him and his teammates to take an early 12-3 lead, forcing the Kings to call a timeout.
The first four Lakers off the bench were Patrick Beverley, Austin Reaves, Juan Toscano-Anderson and Thomas Bryant, which should make for a quality defensive second unit.
Beverley provided a spark for that group, draining a 3-pointer and then finding Toscano-Anderson for an alley-oop. Wenyen Gabriel ended the quarter with a nice block at the rim and the Lakers led 27-21 after one.
The beginning of the second quarter was highlighted by the play of Davis, who drained a pick-and-pop 3 on a feed from Westbrook in addition to some nice defensive plays. Summer League MVP Keegan Murray looked good for the Kings though with seven early points to keep it close.
Oddly enough, it was James who was struggling the most for the Lakers, missing a few layups and starting off 0-for-6 to kick off his 20th season.
Davis’ strong play kept up to end the half though as he made another 3, which is a very welcomed sight for Lakers fans after his pouring shooting season last year. Davis finished the half and the game with a double-double at 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lakers went into the halftime locker room leading 46-41, and that spelled the end for L.A.’s stars in the game. James finished with four points, one rebound and two assists while Westbrook had five points, three rebounds and three assists.
Ham went with a lineup of Nunn, Jones and Toscano-Anderson along with rookies Cole Swider and Max Christie to begin the second half and it did not work as the Kings went on an 8-0 run, led by former Laker guard Malik Monk.
They settled in a bit from there though as Swider knocked down a jumper out of the timeout and then Christie cut for a nice dunk.
L.A.’s young group continued to struggle defensively in the third quarter as the Kings were able to stretch their lead to 76-59.
The important thing was for those rookies to get some valuable experience though and they did just that with Swider knocking down a few shots and Christie and Scotty Pippen Jr. contributing as well.
A couple of other former Lakers in Kent Bazemore and Quinn Cook also got some run for Sacramento in the fourth quarter, extending their lead and putting the game out of reach.
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