Friday January 8th, 2016

Sacramento can file this one under “Disasters Averted” thanks to two crucial last-minute plays by Rajon Rondo.

The Kings defeated the Lakers 118–115 on Thursday despite blowing a 27-point lead in Kobe Bryant’s last trip to Sleep Train Arena. What looked like a surefire blowout at the end of the first quarter, in which the Kings climbed to an early 25–4 lead, surprisingly ended in nail-biting fashion.

D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson combined for 23 fourth-quarter points for the Lakers, who mounted a 46–18 run in the second half to take a 115–114 lead with less than a minute to play.

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But that’s when Rondo restored order, hitting a go-ahead runner with 21.7 seconds left and then picking Clarkson’s pocket on the Lakers’ ensuing offensive possession.

DeMarcus Cousins hit two free throws to give the Kings a three-point cushion with 6.8 seconds left, and a potential game-tying three-pointer from Lou Williams missed in the closing seconds.

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Bryant received cheers from the crowd and hugs from the Kings players on a night that saw him score 28 points in just 31 minutes. After becoming only the third player in NBA history to score 33,000 points, the future Hall of Famer sat the entire fourth quarter as his younger Lakers teammates mounted their comeback attempt.

Unfortunately, Russell, the 2015 No. 2 overall pick, departed the game late in the fourth quarter after he sustained a moderate ankle sprain. Post-game X-rays were negative. He finished with a career-high 27 points (on 11-of-16 shooting) and four assists off the bench. Clarkson added 15 points (on 6-of-14 shooting) and four assists.

Cousins scored a game-high 29 points (on 8-of-12 shooting) and added 10 rebounds and seven assists. Rondo finished with nine points (on 4-of-10 shooting), six rebounds, 12 assists and four steals.

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The Kings improved to 15–21, pulling within 1/2 game of the Jazz for the West’s No. 8 seed. The Lakers fell to 8–29, the worst record in the West.

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