The preseason is designed for coaches to experiment, to figure out rotations, and to improve on certain elements of the game. For the Los Angeles Lakers, defense has been their weakness, and they have yet to show improvements on that end of the floor, as they fell to the DeMarcus Cousins-less Sacramento Kings, 107-100.
Kobe Bryant got the Lakers off to a tremendous start, scoring the team’s first eight of 12 points. But the reoccurring theme of poor defense had the Lakers on the wrong side of the scoreboard once again.
The Lakers gave up 31 first quarter points to a Kings team that was without their star player, allowing easy layups and open threes.
Speaking of long distance shooting, the Kings look like a much improved team from that territory with the addition of Marco Belinelli, who hit three triples tonight. As a team, Sacramento tripled 11 times, hitting at 33.3 percent accuracy.
The game started to slip away from the Lakers in the second quarter, as Sacramento’s bench provided good energy, hustle plays, and efficient shooting.
Eric Moreland was the catalyst defensively for Sac-town, as he came up with a couple of enormous blocks. His defensive tenacity and hustle ignited the Kings to a 10-point halftime lead.
The Kings were able to hold on to their lead to finish out the game behind balanced scoring and Rajon Rondo’s brilliant play making. Rondo appears to be very comfortable running the offense for this young team, as he completely exposed the Lakers’ defense with his penetration. If he could keep a cool head, he could potentially help lead this team to a playoffs spot.
As for the Lakers, Julius Randle continued to impress with his aggressive and efficient play. He finished with 10 points, six assists, and four rebounds on 5 of 9 shooting. However, Jordan Clarkson led the way with 17 points and four rebounds, while Lou Williams had another solid outing off the bench with 16 points, five boards, and three assists.
There were some good, individual moments for the Lakers, but the final score and stats do not indicate how lopsided this game really was. The Kings led by as many as 18, and there were no lead changes after the 9:56 mark of the second quarter.
Belinelli led the Kings in scoring with 17 points, which was followed by Darren Collison’s 16 points and seven assists. Rudy Gay recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Meanwhile, Bryant finished with 10 points for the Lakers before exiting the game with a left lower-leg contusion and not returning. After the contest, Byron Scott told reporters that Kobe’s knee is fine, and he should be able to play on Saturday.
That’s a sigh of relief for Lakers fans, but the team still needs to play better collectively on the defensive end. Five games into the preseason, and defense is nonetheless their biggest concern.
However, Randle is exciting many fans with his courageous play. Tonight, the Lakers used Randle as more of a ball handler, and the young man came away with six assists. He seems comfortable bringing the ball down the floor and creating offense for either himself or his teammates.
Surprisingly, Coach Scott only played 10 players in this game, cutting his rotation short. Rookie D’Angelo Russell came off the bench again and delivered 11 points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of play. Joining him off the bench were Williams, Ryan Kelly, Brandon Bass, and Nick Young, while Bryant, Clarkson, Randle, Roy Hibbert and Anthony Brown were the starters. Those were the only players to see action tonight.
The Lakers don’t play their next game until Saturday, October 17, against the defending champions Golden State Warriors. Meanwhile, the Kings have one more preseason game remaining which also falls on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans.