January 22, 2022

Lakers blow multiple leads, fall to short-handed Kings in 3 OTs

View Original Notice ? Lakers blow multiple leads, fall to short-handed Kings in 3 OTs

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LOS ANGELES — A blowout? No, these Lakers would rather have a nail-biter any night.

One overtime? Why not two? Why not three?

A slog of a game turned into a suspenseful one, then graduated into the absurd on Friday night as the Lakers couldn’t finish off the short-handed Sacramento Kings in regulation, or a first or second overtime period. Finally, in the third 5-minute bonus session, it bit them, and De’Aaron Fox (34 points) and the struggling Kings – a team the Lakers should have crushed on paper – were able to snatch a 141-137 victory away from the Lakers at Staples Center.

The Lakers’ closing lineup all played at least 42 minutes, and while LeBron James (30 points), Anthony Davis (23 points) and Russell Westbrook (29 points) each had their moments, the strain on their legs caught up with them and they missed their biggest shots in the extra periods.

Twisting the dagger was Buddy Hield, who scored 25 points, assisted on the tying basket at the end of regulation and tied the score at the end of the first overtime. At the bitter end of a game that saw 19 ties and 23 lead changes, Hield (who scored 13 of his points in overtime) sealed the victory for the Kings with a pair of free throws to put them ahead by five with 15.9 seconds left. It gave the Lakers, who very nearly traded for Hield before backing out at the 11th hour to pivot to a deal for Westbrook, plenty of food for thought.

After blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead, the Lakers seemed to have things handled initially in the first overtime by getting to the line. When Davis sunk a free throw with 2:09 left in OT, the Lakers led 110-103. But the Kings closed the gap when Fox hit a short jumper, tying it with 28 seconds left. Westbrook ran a pick-and-roll to get Davis an off-the-glass basket with nine seconds remaining, but Hield hit a jumper over James to send the game to a second overtime.

The Lakers had to claw back to even get in position to compete at the end of regulation. They still had a six-point lead with 5:28 left in the fourth, but proceeded to miss five consecutive shots as the Kings flipped the advantage with an 11-0 run.

It was Westbrook who broke through with a cutting dunk, followed by a tying 3-pointer by Malik Monk (20 points), who was hot all night (8 for 11).

They were positioned to get the win in regulation when James hit a reverse layup, then Tyrese Haliburton missed a long stepback 3-point attempt. Westbrook got his mitts on the rebound, but it slipped through his grasp and bounced out of bounds off of his knee. On the subsequent reset, Fox managed to tie it at 100 on a driving layup. James let time tick down on the last shot attempt, but his pull-up from 28 feet was off-target, sending the Lakers to their second overtime in as many games.

Familiar issues cropped up, especially on the glass. The Kings snatched 16 offensive rebounds, leading to 23 second-chance points. The Lakers also had 19 turnovers that Sacramento turned into 22 points, issues of effort and focus as much as any other factors.

The Lakers have won only two games by double figures, against Cleveland and Houston at home in succession, weeks ago. The game against the Kings seemed like a prime opportunity to cruise.

Just 7-12 entering the game with interim coach Alvin Gentry at the helm, the Kings spotted the Lakers even more advantages: Two starters, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes, weren’t able to play, and starter Maurice Harkless only played eight minutes before having to sit out the remainder with knee soreness. Gentry joked of his starting lineup that Sacramento legends Peja Stojakovic and Chris Webber “aren’t walking through that door.”

Still, Friday night’s game had a familiar tone as the Lakers labored against even their overmatched competition. The first quarter was a slog, with each team churning out just 20 points. By halftime, the teams were tied at 43.

Signs of frustration were present throughout that first half. After Davis missed a free throw, he muttered to himself. Westbrook started 1 for 6, casting his head down after missing an open layup in the second quarter.

The third quarter felt like a turning point as Westbook flipped a switch. He hit his next five shots, scoring 13 points in that period, including a pair of wide-open 3-pointers that the Kings didn’t challenge him on. When he scored a layup on Hield, he “rocked the baby” in celebration, finally having found a groove.

After a night of ping-pong with the lead, Westbrook’s charge felt like a current finally surging through the evening, and the Lakers started the fourth quarter with similar urgency as Monk, Wayne Ellington and Carmelo Anthony each hit jumpers during an 8-0 start.

But the tide swung back, and when Alex Len knocked down a 3-pointer with just under four minutes left, the Lakers’ 13-point lead had been completely eclipsed.

The Lakers, who are 10-11 after dropping five of their last seven, next play the Detroit Pistons on Sunday evening.

More to come on this story.

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