The losing streak was finally broken last night as the Lakers showed that they really wanted to win this one. They needed it pretty badly, because a loss to the 4-13 Kings would have caused some panic. They were in sync and in control the entire game, and got a good bit of rest for Pau Gasol and rest of the starters.
Lamar Odom once again had a very good night, especially defensively. He had three of the eight Lakers blocks and also added a steal. He showed that he can be very physical down low defensively, and came out with tons of emotion. Pau Gasol also had a great night, going six for eight from the floor for 16 points, and adding five rebounds. Kobe Bryant only took 18 shots, which is a change from the four game losing streak in which he was averaging 26 shots per game.
The bench once again impressed, but we haven't seen this much production all season. A lot of this can be attributed to garbage minutes, but they still came through in a big way, keeping the lead at about 30 points the entire fourth quarter. Derrick Caracter had his best night so far this season, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds. In total, the bench scored an impressive 52 points.
Final Score: Kings 80, Lakers 113
Lakers Player of the Game: Pau Gasol - 16 points, five rebounds, five assists, three blocks
Let's take a look at the negatives and positives of this game in my Daily Five:
1. Shooting percentage
There was a lot to be positive about in this game, and this was definitely one of them. Throughout that four game losing streak, the Lakers averaged just 42 percent shooting from the floor. Last night, they absolutely smashed that average and shot 56 percent. That is a huge improvement, and just what the Lakers needed. They were finally getting good looks and capitalizing on them.
Pau Gasol, who had struggled shooting the past four of five games, came out great last night, shooting 75 percent from the floor. Kobe also had a much improved night, shooting 50 percent from the floor. He didn't just settle for the outside shot; he really attacked the basket. This improvement in shooting has a lot to do with the points in the paint the Lakers were able to get, which I will touch on later. Just one thing to keep in mind...it was the Sacramento Kings.
The defense finally showed up to play last night, compared to very lack luster and lazy defense on that four game losing streak. They let up an average of 101 points per game during that four game losing streak, but they barely let up 80 last night, which was a very impressive improvement. But like I said earlier, it was only the Kings.
The Lakers had eight blocks and ten steals compared to the Kings' two blocks and three steals. The Lakers also forced 21 turnovers, and got 27 points off of those turnovers. They just played with so much more emotion and effort than the past four games. There were more plays on the ball and less standing around. Hopefully, they continue to play like this as harder competition will be coming up here in December.
3. Dominance down low
What a dominating performance it was for the Lakers in the low post, as they completely thrashed the Kings down low, scoring 68 points in the paint compared to the Kings' 30. In fact, the Lakers held the Kings to just four points in the paint after the first half.
Everything was going right for the Lakers in the low post, and everywhere else for that matter. But the low post was especially active last night. This success down low had a lot to do with the Lakers' successful passing and getting it to Gasol and Odom. Everyone was on the same page, and even Derrick Caracter got into it, showing some amazing footwork. There was even one play where he completely faked out DeMarcus Cousins, which created a wide open dunk. Everything seemed to go right down low.
4. Lakers finally kept a big lead
The Lakers had been struggling a lot lately to keep leads. The problem was never that they didn't get out ahead; it was just that they would get complacent and start to slowly but surely lose the lead. The Lakers' biggest leads were very astonishing during that four game losing streak, as they had a 19 point lead against the Jazz, a 15 point lead against the Pacers, and a 12 point lead against the Rockets.
Big leads aren't only important for winning, they also give starters much needed rest. Pau Gasol struggled mightily the past four of five games, and a lot of that could have been attributed to the fact that Pau is averaging 38.7 minutes per game. He only played 27 minutes last night, and got some very well earned rest. Getting early leads and keeping them will be key in resting the starters, especially guys like Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom who have had to play more minutes in the absence of Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff.
5. Kobe Bryant's free-throw shooting
It was hard to find a negative from this game, but shooting 50 percent from the free-throw line is a big negative, even if it was probably just "one of those nights" from the line for Kobe. He only converted on four of his eight free-throw attempts, and that would have been very crucial against a halfway decent opponent.
This is nothing to be worried about, and if he is going to struggle like this from the line, it's better that it happens against a team like the Kings rather than a team like the Celtics.
Next Game: Tuesday, December 7 vs. Washington Wizards 10:30pm est.
Lakers Keys to the Game
- Keep John Wall from driving off the pick-and-roll
- Come out with emotion and keep it from start to finish
- Get out ahead early, and don't lose the lead in the fourth quarter
My Prediction: Wizards 90, Lakers 104
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