Lakers 113, Kings 80: Losing Streak, Begone!

LOS ANGELES CA - DECEMBER 03: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers dunks the ball against the Sacramento Kings during the first half at Staples Center on December 3 2010 in Los Angeles California. The Lakers defeated the Kings 113-80. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Is your favorite NBA team in a funk? Is it sinking in the standings? Has it made blowing huge leads a nightly habit? Has a previously unfathomable five-game losing streak become all too readily fathomed?

The Sacramento Kings are here to help.

The NBA's schedule gnomes threw the drowning Lakers a life preserver tonight. After four straight losses they were invited to work out their frustrations against a team that, if not the league's worst, at least holds a viable claim to that title. And the Lake Show treated them as such, easily rocking and rolling their way to a 113 to 80 blowout. Not for a moment was the outcome in doubt. The only open questions were how big the lead would grow (very), how much rest the Laker starters would get (enough) and how many Luther Head jokes SS&R commenters would crack in the game thread (approximately two hundred).

Statistically this was one of the Lakers' best performances of the season on both offense and defense. I use the modifier "statistically" because the opponent was so achingly lousy, it's hard to get super-exercised over the win. After four straight losses we'll obviously take it, but the Kings are an eyesore of a team. They looked like they had no interest in being at Staples Center tonight or even in continuing their careers as professional athletes. They exerted zero effort at either end of the floor. Their possessions were constantly cut short by passes to nowhere. If they've so much as practiced together this year, you wouldn't know it from the on-court product.

But credit the Lakers for seizing the opportunity to find their lost riddim. Kobe Bryant (22 points on 21 shots, including free-throw possessions), Lamar Odom (16 on 14) and Pau Gasol (16 on 10) led the attack. All three bros worked the ball into the paint with single-minded purpose. As a team the Lakers made 64% of their two-point shots, a season high. Up until game time it actually wasn't clear that Pau would even play - he had to test his sore hamstring in shootaround first - but he went 27 minutes and looked sharper than he has in a while. He'll now have four days to chill before the Lake Show hosts the Wizard on Tuesday.

On D the gold and purple were straight dominant. In a welcome departure from their play during the losing streak they resolved to challenge every shot at the rim. Lamar, Pau and Derrick Caracter combined to block eight shots. For the game the Kings scored only 0.89 points per possession, and even that benefited from garbage time stat-padding. Through three quarters their offensive production stood at an impoverished 0.79 points per trip. Eight different Kings committed at least two turnovers.

Speaking of garbage time, it kicked in around the middle of the second quarter. This allowed plenty of run for the Laker reserves, who made the most of it. Steve Blake broke out of his shooting slump to bury three triples. Devin Ebanks flashed a little swag and racked up a career-high eight points. Luke Walton and Sasha Vujacic demonstrated that they still walk the earth. And Shannon Brown tossed down some minty dunks. This one was the least exciting but, at the time I'm writing this, is the only one up on youtubes:

Most edifying was the play of Caracter. He stayed on the floor for 21 minutes and showed good energy and court awareness. His 10 points (also a career high) included a polished up-and-under move against Samuel Dalembert, who's no slouch as defensive centers go. DC also swatted a couple shots and picked up a steal. Will this persuade Phil Jackson to give him more minutes as Gasol's backup? Here's hoping.

A lone blemish on tonight's performance came at the free-throw line. The Lakers missed six of their 22 free-throw attempts, which isn't awful, but it does mark the first time this season they've failed to drain at least 75% of their freebies. Dis mah sad face! :-(

But on the whole, tonight's beatdown was a refreshing palate-cleanser. Not until the Lakers face some better competishe will we know how many of their recent problems they've really ironed out. But there's nothing like a visit from the Kings to put one's problems in perspective.











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Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.

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