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Kings Beat Lakers 99-92 in Dwight Howard's Debut

Stephen Dunn

For the second time in as many games, the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers on the road. The Kings finished the game on a 10-0 run to win 99-92. DeMarcus Cousins hit the go-ahead layup for the Kings and finished with 16 points, 6 boards, 4 steals and an assist. Aaron Brooks and Marcus Thornton had 16 and 15 points respectively for the Kings off the bench.

For the Lakers, Dwight Howard made his debut and looked very good on both ends of the court. In 33 minutes, he scored 19 points on 8-12 from the field with 12 rebounds, 2 assists and 4 blocks. The Lakers played a starter heavy rotation, with each starter seeing at least 32 minutes. Kobe Bryant led the game with 21 points on 6-12 shooting, but missed a potential game-tying three in the final minute. Pau Gasol scored 14 points to go with 8 boards and 5 assists, and Steve Nash had 6 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Nash collided with Isaiah Thomas in the 3rd quarter and left the game for the locker room but came back into the game during the 4th. Former King Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace scored 14 points, with 4 boards and 4 steals to boot.

The first half was a mix of good and bad. While the Kings defense had a lot of trouble hanging with all the Lakers stars (a problem that most teams will face), they were moving the ball well on offense, getting second chances, and kept the game close. However, the 2nd quarter saw a reversion to the team's isolation ways. The second quarter saw the Kings bench unit of Aaron Brooks, Marcus Thornton, Travis Outlaw, Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes come in. Brooks lit up the Lakers, but almost all of that came at the expense of the Lakers' terrible bench depth. It was also mostly isolation basketball. When the Lakers put their starters back in midway through the quarter, the isolation was not nearly as effective, and the Lakers quickly got out to a double-digit lead by the end of the half. The Kings had just 1 assist in the second quarter, compared to 9 in the first. The Kings also slipped to sub-40% shooting (37.8%) while the Lakers remained efficient at 60%, with most of their baskets coming at the rim. Sacramento also saw a major discrepancy in fouls in the first half, with 18 to just 7 for the Lakers. Most of those seemingly involved Dwight Howard, who made a big impact on both ends of the court in his debut.

The Kings came out much better in the 2nd half, erasing the Lakers lead in the first four minutes. The Kings were able to force turnovers and missed shots, and get out in the fast break. Sacramento's bench then came in and did their part as well, in particular Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Thornton. Fredette did a good job of running the team and hitting shots, and Marcus Thornton got back into the groove after a poor first half. Fredette made a reverse layup with 0.4 seconds left in the 3rd to give the Kings the lead going into the 4th. The Kings were able to extend the lead in the fourth quarter with the Lakers bench in, until Mike Brown put all his starters back in for the final 7 minutes.

The Kings were able to hold off the Lakers with a mix of bench players and DeMarcus Cousins. At the 3:27 mark, Cousins stole it from Dwight Howard and took it downcourt for the slam and the two point lead. Cousins did not have the best looking game, and looked a step slow in the first half, but he stepped up down the stretch. World Peace answered back with a tough three as the shot clock expired to give the Lakers the lead back.

After a quick timeout, Aaron Brooks took it right to the basket and scored the easy layup to put Sacramento ahead. Brooks was phenomenal off the bench for the Kings, scoring 16 points on just 5 shots in 18 minutes. He also added 3 boards and 2 assists without committing a turnover.

Coming back on the other end, Steve Nash found Dwight Howard for an alley-oop, something that had been occurring all game and will continue all season to make it 90-89. On the other end, Francisco Garcia missed a jumper badly and Hamady N'Diaye fouled Pau Gasol to send him to the line. N'Diaye got his longest look of the preseason thanks to foul trouble on the Kings bigs. I liked his defensive effort, if not the results.

Gasol made both of his free throws to give LA the 92-89 lead. They would not score again. Brooks tried to tie the game with a three pointer, but missed the shot. Cousins was there for the offensive rebound, and showed wonderful patience as he waited out both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard before putting the ball in the basket to cut the deficit to 1. Then after Kobe missed a shot on the other end, DeMarcus faced up on Howard and took him to the basket for the go-ahead layup with 41 seconds left.

Steve Nash ran the next possession and missed a floater just short. The Lakers were forced to foul and Jimmer Fredette nailed the free throws. Kobe tried his hero shot, missed, and the game was essentially over aside from free throws. It was a good team win for the Kings, as the Lakers clearly wanted to win and avoid falling to 0-6 for preseason.

The Kings went with a similar starting lineup as the last game against the Lakers, except Tyreke Evans started once again in place of Marcus Thornton. Isaiah Thomas played 16 minutes and had 8 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds. Tyreke Evans was the only starter aside from DeMarcus Cousins in double-digits with 12 points, but he shot just 4-10 from the field, most of which were jump shots. I liked seeing him take open jumpers, but aside from his first shot (a set three), I think only one other jumper went in.

James Johnson had probably his first bad game as a King, scoring 0 point on 5 attempts. I noticed that he was doing something I like to call the "Luther Head" aka pumpfaking every single time upon receiving the ball. He was active in other areas though, leading the team in assists (3) and blocks (2). He also had 2 steals in his 21 minutes.

Thomas Robinson had 6 points (3-6 from the field), 4 boards and an assist. Also this happened:

I want Robinson to attack the basket at every opportunity. He has tremendous explosiveness, and should use it instead of settling for jumpers so often.

The Kings bench was great tonight and essentially won the team the game. Sacramento's bench outscored LA's 57-18. Every bench player aside from N'Diaye scored. Chuck Hayes continued to look much better than last year, moving very well on both ends and playing tough defense. He had a good all-around statline with 6 points, 7 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block in 20 minutes. He did have 5 fouls though.

Jason Thompson finished with 8 points, 5 boards and an assist. Travis Outlaw played 12 forgettable minutes and put up 4 bad looking shots, one of which went in. Francisco hit a three and had a nice block on Dwight to stop a dunk. Jimmer looked comfortable again on offense, and Marcus Thornton had a nice second half although he finished with his worst shooting performance of the preseason (4-13).

The Kings play again tomorrow in Phoenix before wrapping up preseason on Thursday against these very same Lakers. I know it's just preseason, but I'd love to get a three game sweep on LA.