Coming into tonight’s matchup with just eight games to go, the Lakers were 25-49 versus 26-48 for Sacramento, giving this game serious lottery implications. While the Lakers put up a fight to keep the game close, Rudy Gay and rookie Ray McCallum proved to be too much and the Kings prevailed 102-107. The Lake Show has struggled all year on the second game of back-to-backs and this game was no exception. The Show earned their 50th loss of the year and sixth straight on the road, solidifying their lottery position. With seven games to go, the Lakers will need to go 6-1 to avoid the worst season in franchise history.
Injuries played a factor for both sides in this matchup, forcing the Lakers and the Kings to rely on bench players for heavy minutes. While the Kings were missing Isaiah Thomas and Carl Landry, the Lakers were down to only 9 healthy bodies tonight. Between Portland and Sacramento, four more Lakers went down: Kaman (calf), Nash (ankle), Gasol (sever recurrence of vertigo), and Xavier Henry (multiple injuries). Losing those guys on top of Kobe and Farmar was too tall of a task for the Lakers to overcome.
To their credit, the Kings imposed their will on offense most of the game and shot nearly 49% from the field. Playoff stakes or not, they looked like a team that did not want to get swept by their Pacific Division rival. Rookie PG Ray McCallum played like a seasoned veteran, pouring in 27 points and 5 assists against the Laker D. Rudy Gay came up big in the fourth quarter and had 31 points on the night. Despite early foul trouble, DeMarcus Cousins had 20/10 and managed yet another double-double on the season.
Despite shooting under 39% from the field, the Lakers managed to keep the game within striking distance through a combination of outside shooting and effort. They were in this game to the end because they won the battle of the boards, made 80% of their freebies, and went 12/28 from behind the arc. They were led by Jordan Hill, who went from a DNP last night to 18 points and 15 boards before fouling out. Meeks contributed 21 and Marshall threatened to have a triple double with 7 points, 7 boards, and 10 assists. Nick Young followed up his 40 point night with 17 points on 6/17 shooting and a poorly timed technical foul in the fourth. On the plus side, he had his 7th four point play of the year, improving on his franchise record.
Down 60-52 at halftime, the Lakers came out of the gate hot with a 9-2 run, drawing within one point. The rest of the game saw Sacramento build lead after lead, only to watch the Lakers make it close again through their tireless effort. A Ryan Kelly dunk closed the lead to 103-100 with under two minutes to go, but the Kings sealed the game at the free throw line to chants of "Beat LA." Between an unnecessary foul in the last minute and a failure to execute offensively, it was clear that the Lakers missed their go-to options in the clutch.
Although this injured Lakers squad may be short on talent, Coach D’Antoni has them playing hard and with real energy for 48 minutes. Still, there’s no doubting the fact that a 25-50 team is simply hard to watch night after night. At this point, Lakers fans want to put this season behind them and focus on their upcoming lottery pick. The countdown continues: only seven games left until it’s all over.