The Los Angeles Lakers’ apparent priority of delivering Kobe Bryant the all-time scoring record showed throughout the game against the Sacramento Kings, one in which Bryant shot the ball 30 times to eat up a huge portion of Lakers possessions.
Ben McLemore was responsible for checking Bryant throughout the entire game and did so effectively, forcing the player who has made more tough shots than any other to do just that — take tough shots. Bryant finished the game with 25 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
McLemore was also one of the Kings’ focal points on the offensive side of the ball, whether it be by design or Ben’s own decreasing passiveness. It has been positive in the sense that he takes advantage of his opportunities for drives, cuts and transition points now more than ever. In this game, even though he was defending Bryant, he produced 23 crucial points.
“Making [Kobe] work on both ends of the floor, that’s what I tried to do tonight,” McLemore said. “It was a team effort, too, on both sides of the ball.”
McLemore finished with 23 points on 55.6 percent shooting. He added eight rebounds.
At one point in the third quarter, Los Angeles went on a run that put them up by double-digits, making an immediate response from Sacramento necessary for a chance to come back in the fourth quarter. The team did just that coming out of a Tyrone Corbin timeout, starting off with fast-paced offense and transitioning to a slower tempo after the gap was reduced.
“For one thing we picked up the pace,” said DeMarcus Cousins. “We put our foot on the pedal… that’s something we were preaching in the huddle.”
This is one of the first instances of fast-paced possessions that have worked since Mike Malone’s absence as the Kings’ head coach, and it aided in bringing the team back into the game as the Lakers had their run quickly snapped.
Cousins was excellent in his second game back, taking advantage of a mismatch as the Lakers tried to guard him with Jordan Hill. Once Los Angeles began sending double teams, Cousins passed the ball out to create open shots for Darren Collison and Ben McLemore.
Cousins finished the game with 29 points on 19 attempts from the field. He had 14 rebounds with six of them coming on the offensive glass, and contributed two assists, two steals, and three crucial blocked shots.
The game was still close in the last four minutes of play— until Bryant decided it was his right to take every shot to put his team ahead again, an endeavor which would ultimately lead to the implosion of the Lakers’ opportunity to win. The Kings did everything right on Bryant— primarily using Rudy Gay‘s on-ball defense for the final few possessions and making timely switches to close out on his perimeter shots.
“It was a great team effort,” stated Ty Corbin. “Kobe is a great player— he’s a Hall of Fame guy. He’s going to take some tough shots, and he’s going to make some tough shots. We wanted him to work for everything that he got, and I thought that Rudy Gay did a great job on him.”
The Kings will head to Oakland to take on the NBA’s best team — the Golden State Warriors. This back to back is untimely for Sacramento who just snapped a five-game losing skid with this victory over Los Angeles, and the Warriors have had a few days to rest and prepare their elite team.