The Kings were missing two starters while the Lakers welcomed back their first five, and Sacramento still had the best duo on the court.
Tyrese Haliburton and Richaun Holmes worked their magic, building an early lead and then roaring back from a deficit late to stun the nearly full-strength Lakers in Los Angeles, winning 110-106. The play-in might be a pipe dream, but Haliburton and the Kings are trying to build winning habits, and that was on full display Friday.
In the first quarter, the Kings bludgeoned the paint, as Holmes, Chimezie Metu, and Damian Jones attacked the rim with reckless abandon, despite being confronted by a trio of L.A. 7-footers. That helped Sacramento build a 30-15 lead early. That strategy was put on the shelf when Metu had to leave the game after a hard fall in the second quarter. Marvin Bagley was much better than expected — a pick-and-pop three and a baseline cut for a dunk stand out — but he had a minutes restriction, leaving him unable to play down the stretch.
So the Kings went in the opposite direction in the fourth quarter when the Lakers elected to close the game big. They surrounded Holmes with four guards — Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Terence Davis, and Delon Wright — and made those lumbering bigs try to defend in space. L.A. couldn’t hang, and Sacramento erased a 10-point deficit to win by four.
The emblematic play of that stretch came when the Kings were pinging the ball around the court, and Anthony Davis was forced to close out on Terence Davis in the corner. The Lakers’ big was forced to fly by instead of being able to stop and put a body on the shooter; as a result, Terence Davis side-stepped and calmly sank the corner three as the shot clock expired to put Sacramento up five.
The Kings’ halfcourt defense was good enough, and the team was particularly opportunistic when the Lakers turned the ball over, which they did 21 times. That helped produce 19 points in transition.
Haliburton had game-highs of 23 points and 10 assists, while Holmes added 22 points and nine rebounds. Four players off the bench scored in double digits, as well as Metu with 10 in the starting lineup, helping offset a rough shooting night from Buddy Hield. Overall, this was an excellent bounce back from an ugly game against Utah; the Kings had the opportunity to play spoiler against an L.A. team in a tight seeding battle, and they did just that.