Lakers fall apart late again in loss to Sacramento

Kings win their season series against the Lakers, 3-1.

LOS ANGELES — That didn’t turn out great.

The Lakers, after losing a 14-point lead early, came back from 14 down. And then they fell short at the end because they looked pretty inept in the last few minutes as the Sacramento Kings took the W in their last match-up, 116-111.

Domantas Sabonis was a late scratch in this game but the Kings still had a ton of firepower. It didn’t show up early, though, as the Lakers tried to get a jump on them in the first quarter. The Lakers ran up 11 straight and boosted their lead to that aforementioned 14 points. L.A. led after one, 39-28.

Before the half ended, De’Aaron Fox and company did their thing. Three-pointers and lay-ups were sank as the Lakers continued to play optional defense. Sacramento took the lead before halftime, 61-60.

We all know that the Lakers love the third quarter. Sacramento went on a 14-2 run as the Lakers went dry offensively. Still, L.A. was able to get the deficit down to 90-82 entering the fourth.

The Lakers rallied and took the lead briefly before the game entered the five-minute mark with a 103-tie. And that’s when we saw the Lakers do nothing. Yes, LeBron’s three-point play still tied the game at 108 with over a minute left. But just a lot of one-on-one happening with the Lakers. After Harrison Barnes made a clutch three-point play, LeBron dribbled down the clock and shot an ill-advised three-pointer. De’Aaron Fox would get fouled with 12 seconds left and he’d split his free throws.

Kendrick Nunn somehow made a three to cut the deficit to 112-111 with 7 seconds left. But then Richaun Holmes got free and Max Christie had to foul him. It was called a “clear path” foul and it gave the Kings free throws and possession. I really don’t like the application of the “take” and “clear path” foul rule but that’s another story for another day. Anyway, the Kings kept possession, Lakers had to foul, Sac made free throws, and the game was over.

The game wasn’t won on that awful rule but rather, it was won because the Lakers can’t play defense and were just so bad offensively in the last five minutes of the game. Just a lot of standing around for the Lakers while either LeBron or Westbrook ran down the clock like it’s 1995 all over again. They ended up with hurried, bad shots.

And the Lakers seemed okay with just trying to outscore teams because their defense has not been great. It could be that the number of injuries have caught up to the Lakers and that guys like Dennis Schröder and Thomas Bryant are just fatigued. Still, no one’s going to feel sorry for them. The Lakers just have to play better basketball on both ends. Move around on the offense. Set picks. Make cuts. Pass the ball. It’s joyless at the moment.

On defense, we haven’t seen them fly around and make crisp rotations consistently like they did early in the year. Remember when they were once in the Top 3 in defensive rating? Yeah, that feels like eons ago.

As for the Kings, good on them for taking advantage of that soft schedule, per se. Yeah, that soft schedule will include the Lakers because it’s not like this team is good. Heck, we’d criticize the Kings if they went 1-4 in the last five games. As it is, they’ve won five straight and now they are third in the Western Conference at 25-18 (the New Orleans loss against the Heat earlier in the night put the Pelicans below the Kings due to winning percentage). Good for them and good for their fan base.

The Lakers? They’ve gone 1-3 in this home stand and it’s quite disappointing. This was supposed to help them get back to .500 but now they’ve fallen again. April is coming up fast and pretty soon, they won’t be able to get up. Anthony Davis, Lonnie Walker IV, and Austin Reaves can’t come back fast enough.

All five Kings starters were in double figs. Fox led the team with 31 points. Veteran Harrison Barnes scored 20. Richaun Holmes, who replaced Sabonis in the starting line-up, was huge with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

For the Lakers, LeBron had a gaudy 32-8-9 line but man, he was settling late in the game. Russell Westbrook had 19 points and 7 boards while Kendrick Nunn put in 14. No other starter outside of LeBron scored in double figures. That’s not great.

For a while, Sacramento was killing the Lakers in offensive boards. The end tally was a bit more respectable at 14-6. So of course, the Kings beat them in second chance points, 20-10. Lakers played pretty clean basketball with 7 turnovers but if you can’t stop anybody and if you put up bad shots, those few giveaways don’t matter as much in the big picture.

It’s not going to get easier as the Memphis Grizzlies and Ja Morant are hitting up Crypto Dot Com Arena on Friday. By the way, they’ve only won 11 straight games. No big deal.

It’s not like they haven’t been in trouble all season but… the Lakers are in real trouble now.

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