Los Angeles had the advantage for almost the entire first half. LeBron James made shots near the rim, Malik Monk caught fire again from deep and Talen Horton-Tucker made some nice shots driving towards the rim.
But after building a 14-point lead late in the second quarter, the Lakers unraveled in the final few minutes during that same period that saw the momentum shift going into the second half.
The Kings outscored the Lakers 40-23 in the third and created a 13-point lead of their own. Austin Reaves spurred a late comeback in the fourth along with buckets from LeBron and Malik Monk, but it was not enough.
Here is how the Lakers, now 21-21 on the season, graded individually from the loss:
After shooting 4-of-14 from the field two games ago and 2-of-12 in the last game, Russell Westbrook shot 2-of-14 against the Kings, somehow dropping in efficiency after two rough outings. He went 0-of-5 from distance, and his final miss killed the Lakers’ hopes of making a comeback. Westbrook’s misses summarized the team’s struggles all games, and L.A. would’ve been better off not playing him. He had eight points, six assists and 12 rebounds.
It didn’t help that Harrison Barnes had the Westbrook assignment because it’s a difficult task for Westbrook given the size difference, but he still needs to be smarter with the ball, regardless of the one turnover.
Malik Monk: A-minus
Malik Monk didn’t have the best defensive performance despite posting two blocks, but his shooting kept the Lakers floating in the first half even though he cooled off in the second. He bounced back from a bad night against Memphis to drop 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting overall with a 6-of-9 clip from deep to go with seven rebounds and three assists. He was 6-of-7 from deep before missing his last two attempts.
Avery Bradley had another cold shooting game after going 2-of-10 against Memphis. Bradley shot just 2-of-9 tonight and missed all four of his 3s, and he wasn’t able to use his cutting prowess to slice Sacramento’s defense as much as he’s done to opponents in the past. He had a solid four assists, but like Westbrook, his misses sorely hurt.
Trevor Ariza: D-plus
Trevor Ariza showed signs of being washed tonight. He looked slow all night and took bad 3-point attempts that were head-scratching at best. He helped himself by putting up five rebounds, three assists and three steals, but it was also not a good night for him being in the starting lineup.
LeBron James: A-minus
LeBron had a rough go from the field, shooting 13-of-29 overall, 3-of-12 from deep and 5-of-10 from the charity stripe. But he still dropped 34 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a steal. Similar to last week’s game against the Kings, James strolled around for the first half before turning it on when he needed to. His shot just wasn’t falling like it has been of late, but he still delivered. He also could’ve asserted himself more, but he was far from the reason L.A. lost tonight.
Austin Reaves: A-plus
Austin Reaves was the best Laker. After getting his ankles snatched by fellow rookie Davion Mitchell, Reaves responded with a flashy dunk cutting to the rim and hit 4-of-7 3-pointers en route to a 19-point night. He drew several fouls on the Kings, too, and he was the heart of the Lakers’ comeback efforts throughout his 28 minutes. Reaves made tough buckets all night and had a great two-way performance despite the outcome.
Talen Horton-Tucker: C-minus
Talen Horton-Tucker didn’t have a polished game, but there were some good takeaways. He hit a catch-and-shoot triple to cut into the deficit and converted near the rim for a nine-point night, but he shot 4-of-9 overall to get there. At times, it felt like he needed to be on the floor instead of Westbrook.
Dwight Howard: B
Dwight Howard needed to play more minutes. He had just 15 off the bench, but he posted eight points on 3-of-3 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in that span. He was also responsible for four of Los Angeles’ offensive rebounds, and his presence down low helped swallow open layup lines the small-ball lineups allowed.
Stanley Johnson: B
Stanley Johnson should’ve played the minutes Ariza did. Johnson put up eight points off the bench and hit 2-of-3 shots from downtown to go with one assist, but he logged just 12 minutes. Ariza is far the more proven shooter, but Johnson made more sense on a night like this with his intensity and young legs against a pacy Kings squad.
Wayne Ellington: D
Wayne Ellington played nine minutes off the bench, particularly in the fourth quarter when Westbrook went to the bench. The Lakers hoped he could provide the hot shooting he had against Memphis a few nights ago, but he went 0-of-2 from the field and airballed a look on a pindown from above the break.