After an atrocious first 24 minutes of play, the Lakers looked like a completely different team after halftime, blowing out the Sacramento Kings 117-92 to get their desired revenge for a brutal triple-overtime loss last Friday. The 25-point win is by far the Lakers’ largest margin of victory of the season.
Russell Westbrook continued his scorching-hot play of late, dropping 23 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds as his energy helped spark his teammates in the second half. Davis bounced back from a tough shooting start to contribute 12 second-half points and finish with a team-high 25.
The Lakers’ role players also had one of their best games as a collective unit in weeks. Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk and Dwight Howard all finished in double-figures, with Howard — who started the second half over DeAndre Jordan — looking much more like the rim-running rebound machine that he was during the Lakers’ 2019-20 title run. Anthony and Monk both benefitted from the wide-open looks they got from the Kings’ struggling defense and Westbrook’s passing, contributing 14 and 22 points off the bench, respectively.
The Lakers came out lifeless in the first half, giving up 59 points and trailing by double digits at several points. The only reason they went into halftime down by nine instead of 12 was a half-court buzzer-beater from Malik Monk.
Westbrook, however, came alive in the third quarter, relentlessly attacking the basket and helping get Davis in a rhythm while the Kings went ice cold on the other end of the floor. The Lakers outscored Sacramento 37-15 in the third quarter, a stark departure from the way they have performed in that period this season overall. Westbrook had 10 points and 3 assists in the period, while Davis found his shooting stroke and contributed 10 points as well. The Lakers also showed some life on defense, holding the Kings to long scoreless stretches (which were helped by the Kings being, well, the Kings) in each of the third and fourth quarters.
The Lakers got some bad news earlier in the day when they found out that LeBron James was going to be placed into the health and safety protocols. James, who is fully vaccinated, could be out as long as 10 days, or at least until he can test negative for COVID-19 twice within 24 hours. Though the Lakers surely hope James will make a quick return, it is still another blow for a team that has now played 12 of their 23 games this season without their nearly 37-year-old franchise centerpiece.
Although, yes, this is still a Kings squad that recently fired old friend Luke Walton and has one of the least talented rosters in the NBA, the Lakers getting what was essentially their first real blowout win of the season is a huge shot in the arm (pun very much intended, please go get vaccinated!) after the news of James’ situation earlier in the day.
The Lakers now have won consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month. If Anthony Davis has any say, though, they’re going to need to string together a lot more victories to truly claw back into the NBA championship contention they expected of themselves before the season. He and the rest of the team took a step in the right direction on that front on Tuesday.