The Lakers’ opponents aren’t just saying the quiet part out loud — they’re blasting it from the rafters after weeks of build-up.
After Russell Westbrook missed a shot on Wednesday night at the Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings’ game operations team pounced, playing a clip of Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” to tease him. And throughout the game, Westbrook offered them plenty of reasons to rewatch the clip.
Westbrook wasn’t the only Laker who struggled in a 125-116 loss to the Kings, but he had a look at the game’s final crucial shot — an open look from the 3-point line – and missed it with 1:07 remaining with the gap at four points. It was the final of Westbrook’s 12 missed attempts, an undeniable low moment for a player who had struggled with his shooting for weeks.
However, there was plenty of fault to go around as the Lakers (21-21) fell back to.500: their defense couldn’t contain the Kings’ fast attack and let them into the paint. Sacramento shot over 55% from the field, paced by De’Aaron Fox’s 29 points, and scored a whopping 70 points in the paint.
Even LeBron James, who led the team in scoring with 34 points, struggled on offense, going 13 for 29 from the field and 3-for-12 from 3-point range. Malik Monk, who had 22 points on six 3-pointers, and Austin Reaves, who had a career-high 19 points, were the Lakers’ brightest individual bright spots.
All three had a role in the Lakers’ late comeback from a 13-point deficit to a two-point deficit with 1:36 remaining. After Reaves’ pull-up, the Lakers got something they hadn’t been able to do all night: defensive stops. Monk blocked a shot that resulted in a James layup, and James then earned a strip that resulted in a Monk layup. When James rebounded a miss by Harrison Barnes (23 points) and took it coast-to-coast for a fastbreak layup, the ingredients for a comeback seemed to be in place.
With a jumper in the lane seconds later, Fox slapped the brakes on the rally. With just over a minute left, Westbrook took his open shot, but his fifth 3-point try, like the others, clanked off. When Sacramento came back down the floor, Chemezie Metu (14 points) hit a 3-pointer to seal the victory.
Arguably, it wasn’t even the fourth quarter that cost the Lakers a chance to grab the season series lead against the Kings. In the third quarter, they were outscored 40-23, a reminder of their early-season troubles to compete after halfway.
For long stretches in the first half, the Lakers looked reasonably in control. That sense of confidence peaked in the second quarter, when Monk (who made his first four shots) hit a stepback 3-pointer and found Dwight Howard moments later for a layup. With 2:19 left in the half, James made a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 14-point cushion.
But the Lakers couldn’t maintain that margin before the intermission. The Kings scored eight straight points to end the half, with the final four by Fox, whose fleet footed-game kept the Lakers’ defense on its heels all evening. Sacramento scored six more unanswered points to begin the third quarter, taking control of the game.
Westbrook had 12 rebounds and six assists against just one turnover, but the shooting slump was impossible to ignore. Toward the end of the third quarter, he pulled up early in the shot clock for a missed 3-point try, then turned the ball over – the mistakes led to five Sacramento points.
The Lakers have two days before their next game, against reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in Denver.
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