Last night, your Los Angeles Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings in a resounding blowout at the Golden 1 Center, 117-92, to rise to an admittedly pedestrian 12-11 record around the quarter-season mark.
Much of the victory against De'Aaron Fox and company can be specifically accredited to a scorching-hot run that extended from the 9:15 mark (i.e. the two teams had 9:15 left to play) of the third quarter to the 10:51 point in the fourth. LA went on a 40-8 run in Sacramento, thanks largely to the stellar third-quarter efforts of Anthony Davis (who scored 23 points and pulled down seven rebounds in the period), Russell Westbrook (19 points) and Malik Monk (15 points on five made three-pointers).
The Lakers came to life on both sides of the ball in the game's second half. The Kings actually concluded the first half with a nine-point advantage, 59-50. Los Angeles promptly clamped down across the game's final two frames, limiting the Kings to just 29.4% shooting from the field, on 34 attempts. LA, by stark contrast, connected on 26 of their 46 field goal shots (56.5%). Cumulatively, the Lakers shot 50% from the field over both halves.
LA enjoyed a significant edge in three-point shooting, connecting on 11-of-28 shooting from deep (39.3%), notably superior to the Kings' 6-of-29 (20.7%) conversion.
Bench scoring also proved crucial in securing the W last night. The Lakers scored 46 bench points (mostly thanks to Monk's 22 and Carmelo Anthony's 14), while the Kings notched just 20 points from their reserves.
Los Angeles, of course, played without All-Star forward LeBron James, who appears doomed for an extended absence as a result of his COVID-19 diagnosis, which should hold him out for the next three games at least. On the other side, the Kings were missing forward Harrison Barnes, a two-way menace currently averaging 19.0 points (second-most on the team), 7.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.0 steals for the club.
What can we glean from this victory over a listless Kings team apparently doomed to miss the play-in game once again?
Not a whole lot. The Lakers are scheduled to square off against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Boston Celtics, and the Memphis Grizzlies. Fortunately for the Lakers, both the Clippers and the Grizzlies are also missing their best players, in the form of Kawhi Leonard and Ja Morant, respectively. LA will be lucky to go 1-2 in this ensuing stretch.
The reality of the situation is that the Lakers have been struggling to achieve consistency on either side of the ball. Without the fulcrum of their offense in James, the team will be forced to scramble. Their 106.6 offensive rating is just the 23rd-best in the league, and their 108.1 defensive rating is 15th. They are currently the eighth seed in the West, a thoroughly mediocre club whose preseason championship expectations appear comically optimistic 23 games into the 2021-22 NBA season.
The Lakers more than held their own against the Kings with a starting five of Davis, Westbrook, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wayne Ellington, and, for some reason, DeAndre Jordan (who clearly should be behind Dwight Howard in the rotation). They needed great two-way play from their superstars and great offense from their role players to eke out one of their most comfortable margins of the year. Whether they can do this effectively against teams who are actually, you know, good in the short-term remains to be seen.