Despite an encouraging performance, the Los Angeles Lakers fell 116-112 to the Sacramento Kings on Thursday to conclude their winless preseason.
L.A. outrebounded the Kings 56-49 and outscored them 62-40 in the paint. But patchy defense and poor execution — the Lakers shot just 31.0% from the field — allowed Sacramento to drift away in the last five minutes of the game and eventually secure the win.
Nevertheless, LeBron James put in his best preseason performance on Thursday. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook appeared to take care of the ball more than in previous games and showed off his signature pace and athleticism in aggressive drives toward the rim.
The 2017 NBA MVP said he was able to keep attacking the paint partly because of Sacramento’s defense. “Combination of both,” he said.
“If it’s one-on-one then I like my chances against anybody. So if they’re going to guard me like that then it’s my job to be able to make the right play, attack, use my size and my strength to get to where I need to get to.”
Westbrook also pointed out the Lakers’ Big 3 showed glimpses of the intensity and high-tempo game they are expected to play in the upcoming season.
“Yeah, just we had some spurts throughout the game where our pace was high, got some stops, got out in transition, got open looks which is all you can ask for. There’s some positive we can take from the night.”
The Lakers started the game slowly, offering little resistance to the Kings’ offense. They conceded 71 points through the first two quarters, although allowed only 45 after half-time.
Westbrook emphasized the importance of defensive consistency to unleash the Lakers’ offensive potential.
“First two quarters, gave up 35, 36, third and fourth quarter did of a better job of giving up 21 points, 24. So that’s when we got to lean on because when we get stops, it’s very difficult to stop us in transition.
“Just learning, everybody’s learning new defense. So we kind of got to learn each other, learn our tenancies, learn kind of what we’re doing. So in the process, we got to make sure we just stay consistent to our rules and stick to them, and then when we need to make adjustments, we will.”
The Lakers are starting their season with a home clash against the Golden State Warriors on Oct. 19.
Westbrook brushes aside winless preseason
Westbrook said the 0-6 run didn’t discourage him ahead of Tuesday’s curtain-raiser. The 32-year-old guard explained he doesn’t believe preseason results carry much weight.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you, I’ve been in the league 13 years, I don’t know my preseason record for any of those years,” Westbrook said.
“So that should answer your question. I don’t know anything about preseason [laughs], so no, it doesn’t matter.”
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