April 2, 2018, 2:45 am
The Lakers were missing their top-three options at the point guard position when they played the Kings on Sunday and it showed.
Los Angeles was only able to muster 83 points and looked disjointed on the offensive end of the court. The Lakers never scored more than 22 points in a quarter, shooting only 40.0 percent from the floor and totaling only 18 assists on the night.
Even with their atrocious offensive performance, the Lakers held a 73-69 lead with 6:21 remaining in the game. They were unable to score down the stretch, going 6:19 without a field goal before Brook Lopez hit a 3-pointer with only a couple seconds remaining on the clock. To compound the issue, the Lakers committed seven fourth quarter turnovers, made only 9-of-14 free throws and tallied only three assists in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers had two particularly pivotal turnovers down the stretch that resulted in empty possessions and ensuing easy baskets for the Kings, including the eventual game-winner for De’Aaron Fox.
Julius Randle came into the game with 10 consecutive games of at least 18 points and 10 rebounds — that streak came to an end on Sunday. One contributing factor was foul trouble as he was only able to stay on the court for a total of 24 minutes. Randle had 11 points in the fourth quarter, more than half the Lakers’ total output, while going to the line 12 times and converting nine of those attempts. However, two of his misses were in the last two minutes with the game in question. He finished with 19 points, five rebounds, one block and a minus-4 rating while making 5-of-8 from the field and 9-of-14 from the free throw line.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the Lakers’ second leading scorer, chipping-in 16 points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal. Although he shot 6-of-13 from the field, he missed all six of his attempts from 3-point range and committed four turnovers. Three of his turnovers were particularly costly: One occurred with 39 seconds remaining led to a basket giving the Kings the lead for good and the other was a stretch towards the end of the third quarter when he turned the ball over on consecutive possessions to help spark a 10-2 run for the Kings that gave them the lead.
The Lakers were hoping for a repeat of Kyle Kuzma’s monster game from Friday when he accrued 27 points, 12 rebounds and six assists — they were sorely disappointed. He mustered only 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal while shooting only 5-of-16 from the field and 3-of-9 from 3-point range. Kuzma missed a wide-open layup in the fourth quarter off a beautiful pass from Randle in the open court and a short jump hook down the stretch. Los Angeles really needed Kuzma to step up tonight by scoring and facilitating for his teammates — he was unable to produce results.
Lopez was celebrating his birthday tonight but looked sluggish from the onset, missing most of his shots short and looking a step slow on defense. He finished with nine points, five rebounds, two assists and a minus-6 rating.
One of the few highlights tonight was a second consecutive strong game by backup center Ivica Zubac, who contributed seven points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and a plus-4 rating. He made 3-of-6 from the field but only 1-of-4 from the free throw line.
The Kings were led by Buddy Hield’s 19 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals while shooting 8-of-15 from the field and 3-of-5 from 3-point range. He was particularly impressive in his 17-point first half when he repeatedly showed a developed offensive arsenal, driving to the basket and finishing effectively.
Sacramento’s rookie point guard Fox shot only 6-of-18 from the floor and 0-of-3 from 3-point range, however, his quickness was a problem for the Lakers all night. He was able to break down the Laker defense with ease, creating easy chances for his teammates and tallying 14 points, six assists, three rebounds, one steal and a plus-13 rating.
His starting backcourt partner Bogdan Bogdanovic was able to produce an efficient 15 points, four rebounds and two steals while making 6-of-7 from the field.
The Lakers’ schedule is fairly difficult from here on out as they will face only teams with winning records who are in playoff contention. They will hope to get back Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball to help bolster their roster down the final seven game stretch.
Key Stats and OBSERVATIONS
-Both teams shot poorly from the free throw line with the Lakers converting only 16-of-25 (64.0 percent) from the free throw line and the Kings 7-of-14 (50.0 percent).
-The Lakers were unable to knock down their shots from 3-point range either, making 7-of-32 (21.9 percent) while the Kings were slightly better, making 7-of-24 (29.2 percent).
-Los Angeles committed 15 turnovers vs. only 10 for Sacramento.
-The Lakers lead the league in points in the paint but were outscored tonight 50-46.
-Caldwell-Pope was unable to hit a single 3-pointer during the Lakers’ three-game homestand, going 0-of-13 from behind the arc.
The Lakers head to Utah for a quick one-game road trip on Tuesday.
The Jazz are still fighting for playoff positioning and playing high-level basketball at the moment. They are led by center Rudy Robert, who is a tremendous force on the defensive end of the ball. For the season he is averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
Their leading scorer is impressive rookie Donovan Mitchell, who is averaging 20.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals per game.