The Los Angeles Lakers are undoubtedly the best team in the Pacific Division; no other opponent can match up with their size or talent. The Sacramento Kings are considered the worst team in the Pacific Division, and the Lakers were heavily favored coming into the game. Although the Lakers were present at Staples Center, their minds were looking ahead to Sunday vs. the Celtics. What better way to go into Sunday’s game with a beat-down on a former division rival?
Based on the Lakers’ early play it was clear that they were not focused on their game vs. the Kings. Captain Derek Fisher made a pre-game speech telling his team to avoid the temptation of looking forward to Sunday’s big game. However, Fisher’s words did not seem to stick as the Lakers began the game with a lack of energy and focus. Five minutes into the quarter, the Lakers were trailing by two points, 13-11.
Despite the horrible start, the Lakers witnessed history at the 3:30 of the first quarter; Kobe Bryant passed Hakeem Olajuwon for eight on the all-time scoring list after his fast break dunk.
As the opening period concluded, the Lakers had a three point lead, 33-30. Although the Lakers were ahead, they were clearly not playing great basketball. Kobe Bryant was the only player having a good night offensively, as he scored 21 of the team’s 33 points.
Phil Jackson began the second quarter with Kobe on the bench, which was questionable since Bryant was the only player who had an offensive rhythm. Without Kobe the Lakers could not score, and to make matters worse they were having difficulty defending the young and athletic Kings team. At the mid-way point of the second quarter, the Lakers were trailing 41-40.
The Lakers were playing sloppy basketball, and they were unable to put together a run of any sort. The Kings, on the other hand, were making their shots and they were playing with great continuity. At the end of the half, the Kings were leading the Lakers by four points, 59-55. Kobe Bryant was the only Laker who was hitting his shots, and in the first half he had 26 points; the Lakers’ next leading scorer was Andrew Bynum with a mere six points.
The Lakers opened up the second half playing absolutely terrible defense, and they allowed the Kings to get easy fast-break buckets. The Kings went on a 12-2 run to begin the third quarter, and they were ahead 71-57.
The Kings eventually expanded their lead to 20 points, and momentum completely swung their way. The Lakers were playing with no energy, and the Staples Center crowd was in shock by the team’s performance. Although the Lakers ended the quarter a mini-run, the Kings made sure the lead was still in the double-digits. Heading into the final period, the Lakers were trailing 85-71.
The Lakers opened up the fourth quarter firing on all cylinders, and they were feeding off the crowd’s energy. The Lakers show amped up their defense, which allowed them to get easy buckets on the other end of the court. For the first time in the game, a player other than Kobe Bryant found an offensive groove. The Lakers were forcing the ball in the paint and they were hitting their three point shots. With 7:00 left in the game, the Lakers cut the 14-point lead down to seven, 70-63.
The Lakers continued to carry the momentum, and they eventually cut the lead to three. However, the deficit was too large to overcome and the Lakers could not complete the comeback. The final buzzer rang and the Kings were ahead 100-95. The Lakers’ leading scorer was Kobe Bryant with 38 points, en route to passing Hakeem Olajuwon in the all-time scoring list.
The Lakers fell to a record of 33-14, and their next opponent will be the Boston Celtics on January 30th.