The Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t stop the Kings from lighting the beam on Wednesday night. LeBron James and company found themselves shorthanded once again with Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves all injured and unavailable, and it all culminated in a 134-120 loss in Sacramento.
A third-quarter run from the Kings sealed the Lakers' fate, and the purple and gold are now 13-18 on the season.
The only morsel of positivity for the Lakers is that James returned to the lineup and played well. He had 31 points and 11 assists and looked like his normal self leading the Lakers and looking still like the best player on the court in year 20. Thomas Bryant was also productive and had a double-double (17 points 10 rebounds). He’s stepped up and is playing his best games in a Lakers uniform while in AD is out, even if it hasn’t been enough to lead to many wins.
That’s in part because, right from the jump, the Lakers' lack of size was a problem. With AD out, the responsibility of stopping Damontas Sabonis fell on Bryant, and while Sabonis only scored 13 points, he dominated the boards with 10 in the first and 21 total in the game.
But despite the struggle to win the battle on the glass, the Lakers led by one after 12 minutes. They were able to get good production from James, and Dennis Schröder got going offensively, scoring six in the first. A back-and-forth second quarter was altered when James was apparently hit in the groin midway through, and the Kings went on a run and ended the half up 66-58.
In the second half the tempo picked up, which helped the Kings take control of the game for good. Every time they needed a bucket they went to DeAron Fox and he responded. He ended the night with 22 points and every Kings starter was in double digits.
The Lakers’ defense didn’t make the trip to Sacramento. After allowing 41 pts in the 2nd Q, the Kings put up 40 pts in the 3rd. SAC is shooting 54.3% from the field, 37.1% from 3 and has scored 46 pts in the paint so far.— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 22, 2022
Down by 20 in the fourth, the Lakers looked set to muster up another vintage fake comeback when they cut the lead to 15, but a Wenyen Gabriel flagrant foul caused a 8-0 Sacramento run. The Lakers had one more run in them in with 2:53 left cutting it back down to 13, but a Kevin Huerter three and Harrison Barnes basket put the Lakers away for good.
We don’t know how long Davis will be out, but we do know it dramatically changes the roster and their ability to win. You don’t lose a player like AD and get better. You just hope the next man up can play as best they can in an increased role. So far, that man is Bryant. In the last three games, he’s averaging 16.3 points and 8.3 rebounds to ease the pain of losing AD. Hopefully, his play and effort will not only help keep the Lakers afloat while we await an injury update on Davis, but also convince the front office to make a trade to help improve the roster.
In the meantime, the Lakers’ brutal December schedule may potentially let up a bit with a game against Charlotte on Friday, but as we’ve seen over the last week, without Davis, this team can’t be comfortably favored against anyone.