In a back-and-forth battle, the Los Angeles Lakers came away with a 122-114 victory over the Sacramento Kings after LeBron James and Malik Monk took over late.
Monk got things going early as he was able to hit his first jumper of the night, but the Lakers as a team were cold from the field and fell behind 9-2. Los Angeles was able to take advantage of some unforced Sacramento turnovers to briefly tie the game 13-13 but then gave up an easy basket to Alex Len.
The Laker offense left much to be desired as it devolved into isolation plays, while the Kings sped up the tempo and extended their lead. Talen Horton-Tucker was a good spark off the bench, but Los Angeles trailed 31-26 after one.
Horton-Tucker ignited a 9-0 run at the top of the second with a couple of finishes at the rim as well as his first 3-pointer since clearing health and safety protocols. Dwight Howard was another source of energy as he was able to clean up the glass and prevent any Sacramento second-chance points.
Howard, who has been out of the rotation of late with the Lakers committing to small-ball, showed why he should be in there with 12 points and eight rebounds in his first-half minutes.
Fortunately for L.A., Sacramento had issues taking care of the basketball which allowed the Purple and Gold to increase their lead to seven. However, the Kings found success scoring against the Lakers’ small lineup and the latter would go in the half leading 59-57.
James was aggressive attacking the basket to start the third, scoring on a putback attempt and earning free throws. Avery Bradley came to life by scoring five quick points, but Harrison Barnes was able to answer on the other end.
The Kings started to catch fire from beyond the arc, but Monk was able to respond with his own pair of threes to keep the Lakers within striking distance. Defensively, Los Angeles finally started to string together stops while Anthony’s midrange jumpers allowed them to go into the fourth ahead 85-83.
James and Horton-Tucker committed back-to-back turnovers which the Kings turned into five points and retook the lead. Sacramento was able to cling onto a slim advantage, but Monk made sure L.A. never fell far behind.
Buddy Hield and James traded shots from distance which juggled the lead back and forth between the two teams. The game came down to the wire but James was able to convert on a clutch and-one and hand the Lakers the hard-earned victory.
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