The Sacramento Kings had more than enough opportunities to beat a Los Angeles Lakers team which has proven to be one of the Western Conference’s worst teams.
Kobe Bryant caught fire in the second half after struggling in the first, where nearly every possession ended in a shot with little to no chance for success. It’s been the Lakers’ pattern this season as the only immediate goal is to put Bryant at the top of the NBA’s all-time scoring list and separate himself from the pack as one of the greatest scorers in league history.
Bryant gave his team points in big possessions, and helped string together a run of plays that put Los Angeles up by one point. Late in the game, Sacramento’s attempts to guard Bryant were vastly unsuccessful regardless of how well Ben McLemore actually played him. Kobe seemed to be having one of the nights we have grown so accustomed to seeing, and put pressure on the Kings’ defense which couldn’t finalize stops with defensive rebounds.
Kobe finished with 32 points on 27 shots from the field. A majority of the misses came early in the game when the Kings owned a nine-point lead and looked as if they could comfortably coast to a victory. Kobe’s six assists included an entry pass to Jordan Hill who had inside position on Jason Thompson which created a wide open look.
With under one minute left, Los Angeles held a one-point lead, but not the game. Darren Collison had been hot all night and had his shot falling from mid-range, forcing the Lakers to give him extra attention down the stretch.
In this situation with just over 30 seconds left and the Kings down a possession, Collison created an open three-point look for Rudy Gay who had been scoring the ball well all night, hitting on two of his three shots from downtown.
Gay and Collison were Coach Mike Malone’s only two offensive options for much of the game, with the exception of Ben McLemore who hit three three-pointers early in the game and Reggie Evans who was occasionally given a layup off of a screen-and roll. Finding offense has been the most difficult aspect of DeMarcus Cousins‘ absence, as low-post presence is virtually gone and opposing big men have no need to stay true to the paint and can provide help on shooters at any time.
Gay’s shot ricocheted out and fell into the hands of Kobe Bryant, who was immediately fouled and whose free-throw attempts would effectively end the game. He had needed 27 shots to get there, but the offensive performance he put on tonight was enough to bring a team back from a big deficit to pull out a win.
The Kings will now head home to face the Houston Rockets on Thursday.