Outside of a spirited fourth quarter, it was really a disappointing game for the Kings. Sacramento started fast, getting out in transition and receiving scoring contributions from a handful of players. But the team fell apart in the middle two frames, especially the disastrous third quarter where the game completely got away from the Kings. The Lakers shot a terrific 53.7 percent from the floor, shutting down Sacramento’s late-game comeback attempt. Los Angeles took a 115-107 win, as the Kings dropped their second game in two nights.
DEALING WITH KOBE – Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 38 points on 13-of-24 shooting, and surprisingly, the Kings defense on the star guard was actually pretty good. John Salmons (24 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-9 FG, 2 STL) drew the assignment for much of the game, and it was encouraging to watch him live up to his rep as a strong defender. With how physical Salmons played Kobe, it was amazing he finished the game with no fouls. Salmons worked his tail off to prevent Kobe from catching the rock, and when he did, the Kings were quick to double. Sometimes good defense goes unrewarded and with a guy like Kobe, it is often the case. Bryant made an array of difficult shots, throwing water on the Kings fiery comeback bid.
RESERVES OVER STARTERS – Another game, another interesting look at Keith Smart’s rotations. Smart loves to ride the hot hand and rightfully so. In the first half, though, it was a little strange to see Marcus Thornton, who carried the Kings offense in the first quarter, never return in the first half after taking a seat. The Kings starters were far less effective in the second half, driving Smart to throw in the reserves. And it was the Kings bench that cut a 20-point deficit to five. Salmons, who again played point guard on the second unit, was effective on both ends. Francisco Garcia (23 MIN, 18 PTS, 7-11 FG, 3 STL, 1 BLK), despite a critical late-game miss, played perhaps his best game of the season and led the team in scoring. Jimmer Fredette (21 MIN, 12 PTS, 5-9 FG) bounced back from a bad first half to knock down some key shots during the comeback. And Donte Greene (32 MIN, 5 PTS, 2-10 FG, 4 REB, 3 AST), who had sat out the last three games, played more minutes than anyone on the team. With the game on the line, it was five reserves holding the reins for the Kings.
MONITORING DEMARCUS – DeMarcus Cousins (10 PTS, 5-16 FG, 13 REB) seemed to run out of steam as the game reached the second half, possibly feeling the effects of the back-to-back. Unfortunately, Jason Thompson (1-8 FG, 4 PF) didn’t help lessen the load in the paint, struggling mightily in his 17 minutes. In the first half, Cousins, as he often does, got into trouble when he passed up open shots and became a dribbler. The guy is so smooth with the jumper that he should be popping that in at any opportunity. Dribbling into the Lakers twin towers was not a promising proposition. Cousins did not fare much better in his limited second half action. You have to love his effort, but tonight, it just wasn’t channeled properly.
OTHER OBSERVATIONS – 22 Kings fouls, 13 Lakers fouls. Kings 8-of-9 from the line, Lakers 21-of-26 from the line … Still feels like Isaiah Thomas (14 PTS, 6 AST) and Tyreke Evans (14 PTS, 5 REB) are working out the kinks in the new lineup, which is understandable. Determining which player will handle the ball on a given play seems like it’s up in the air sometimes … Only five turnovers for the Kings, who also had 21 more shot attempts than LA. They just went freezing cold for long stretches … Nice high-post passing tonight from Chuck Hayes (25 MIN, 4 PTS, 4 REB, 4 AST).