The Kings lost their second game in a row in as many nights after failing to get anything going in the 3rd quarter, scoring just 16 points to Los Angeles' 27. Up to that point the Kings had been competitive throughout. The Kings bench came in the 4th quarter led by John Salmons, Francisco Garcia and Jimmer Fredette to cut the lead down from 20 points to just 5, but He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and the rest of the Lakers' starters were able to put the game away.
He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named finished with a game-high 38 points on just 24 shots to go with 8 rebounds and 3 assists in 37 minutes. Center Andrew Bynum also had his way inside scoring 19 points on 8-13 shooting to go with 15 rebounds and three blocks. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace added 15 points each as the Lakers beat the Kings up inside, scoring 52 points in the paint and getting to the line 26 times compared to just 9 attempts for Sacramento. Los Angeles shot 53.7% from the field to Sacramento's 43.7%. The Kings actually made more Field Goals and Three Pointers, but the 13 point free throw disparity was big.
Francisco Garcia led the Kings in scoring with a season-high 18 points (on 8-11 shooting) in 23 minutes off the bench. Cisco also chipped in 3 boards, 3 steals and a block. Sacramento's bench also saw double-figure contributions from John Salmons and Jimmer Fredette, who each had 12 points on 5-9 shooting.
Sacramento's starters started out well, particularly DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton, but their contributions after the first half was minimal. Cousins scored 10 points and had 5 rebounds in just 11 minutes in the first half after picking up three quick fouls (the last of which was controversial), but didn't score the rest of the game, finishing with 5-16 shooting and 13 rebounds in just 22 minutes. Cousins looked exceedingly tired at times, particularly in the third quarter when he was routinely walking up and down the court and settling for long jumpers. Thornton was hot early but didn't get many scoring opportunities in the second half. He finished with 15 points in 25 minutes. Tyreke Evans also played relatively well with 14 points on 50% shooting in 24 minutes, but his jumper wasn't falling and he didn't get back into the game much of the second half due to the hot play of Garcia and Salmons.
None of the Kings starters played heavy minutes tonight, because none of them particularly deserved to. They all looked a lot more fatigued than I would have expected, and the Kings missed several point blank layups and shots that on almost any other night would have gone in. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the play of Jason Thompson, who definitely had his worst game of the season. Thompson had just 3 points on 1-8 shooting and 3 rebounds with 4 fouls in 17 minutes. He couldn't score inside, missing several short hooks and layups, and on the other end he had a lot of trouble with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Isaiah Thomas led all starters in minutes played at 27. He started off slow, but picked it up a little bit in the third quarter where he was the only Kings starter to really get anything going. Isaiah finished with 14 points and 6 assists to just 1 turnover. The team as a whole did a phenomenal job of taking care of the ball after a horrendous affair the previous night in which they had 18 turnovers. Tonight the Kings only turned the ball over 5 times, a season low, and their lowest total since December 1st, 2007. Meanwhile the Kings did a good job of forcing the Lakers into turnovers of their own, with 13, but they did a poor job on converting, scoring just 6 points off those turnovers. Two fastbreaks in the first half particularly stand out where the Kings had numbers and didn't score either time. The first had Tyreke Evans take it to the rim and have his shot bothered by Matt Barnes, and the second had Isaiah trying to make the flashy play instead of the smart play with an attempted lob to Marcus Thornton, not the highest of leapers. This wasn't the first time this has happened this season, and it led to Keith Smart saying to Jim Gray that he might institute a rule not to throw lobs.
Los Angeles did win the rebound battle with Sacramento in a big way, with 48 rebounds to 40 for Sacramento. Much of that is the Kings having a worst time from the field, but it also was the Lakers' size advantage. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are both 7 feet tall and great rebounders, and with DeMarcus Cousins out of the game for much of the time, and Donté Greene playing a lot of the backup PF minutes, that doesn't lead to many offensive rebound opportunities. Cousins had more than half of the Kings offensive rebounds by himself. Thompson is the Kings second best offensive rebounder, and with both Cousins and Thompson out of the game and not playing well, it led to less opportunities for Sacramento. Chuck Hayes does a great job of boxing out, but his height is a real disadvantage there, particularly with guys as long as Bynum and Gasol.
The Lakers came into the fourth quarter up by 18 after that stellar third quarter that completely took the Kings out of the game. They also managed to score first, pushing the lead up to 20. The Kings bench responded with an 11-0 run over the next 4 minutes to cut the lead to 9. John Salmons and Jimmer Fredette were the catalysts here, pushing the ball up and hitting their open shots. The Lakers, who had cleared their bench at this point, put the rest of their starters in to close the game out.
Derek Fisher was the first to step up for L.A. matching the Kings next two buckets with jumpers of his own. After Andrew Bynum scored another bucket inside, the lead was back to 11 halfway through the quarter. John Salmons took it up and the Lakers gave him a little bit of room at the three point line. It was too much room and Salmons pulled up and hit the three pointer. On the other end, Salmons stole the ball from Metta World Peace and pushed it up to Donté Greene, who took it to the rack and ended up getting blocked by the rim in another case of the Kings failing to convert easy shots. That would have cut the lead to six points. Tough defense by Salmons on He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named forced a miss and the Kings pushed it up again, this time with Pau Gasol leaving Jimmer Fredette too wide open, and he drilled the three pointer to cut the lead to 5 points with 5 minutes remaining, and just like that it was a ball game again.
Coming out of the timeout, L.A. answered with a corner three by Metta World Peace. Out of all the guys on the floor, he was probably the one you wanted shooting that, as he has hit just 23.6% of his threes this year, although he has hit them at a decent clip over his career. Jimmer came back and answered with an incredibly tough shot, falling sideways after being bumped by Pau Gasol. No foul was called, but the ball rolled in off the backboard.
The Lakers stepped it up a notch though and scored the next 7 points in a row, 5 by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named including a tough falling away three pointer from the corner. This essentially put the game out of reach as Sacramento was now down 13 points with under 2 minutes remaining. The Kings cut it back to 8 on a deep three pointer by Fredette, but Jimmer's next attempt, another three from the same spot with 43 seconds left that would have cut the lead back to 5, rimmed out, thus ending any small chance the Kings had of possibly tying.
This is the second game in a row that the Kings bench has really stepped up. Everyone off the bench made solid contributions, with only Donté Greene's 5 points on 2-10 shooting being a poor performance (stop shooting so many threes Donté!). The Kings will win more games down the road with their bench playing like they did, and they probably had a chance to win tonight if their starters had played up to their usual standard.
Sacramento now moves on to Phoenix, who they will play on Sunday at 5 PM.