Sacramento hasn’t been an easy team for the Lakers lately. They lost all four games against the Kings last year and entered Thursday with a seven-game losing streak against them.
But that changed with a 101-91 comeback victory in which the Lakers won the second half, 56-36. Here are five takeaways from the game.
1. Julius Randle has been a major driving force for the Lakers lately, and that goes well beyond his stats. Randle wasn’t the high scorer against the Kings, but he was the catalyst for the Lakers’ surge late in the second quarter. He was aggressive and disruptive. He finished with 15 points and eight rebounds. Randle admitted after the game it felt good to be playing as well as he has been playing. “Feels good, but not complacent,” he said. He also seems to enjoy when opponents try to get into his head. It happened again Thursday night with fellow Kentucky alumn DeMarcus Cousins and again we saw Randle’s amusement. He said there were some Kentucky bragging rights on the line.
2. Luke Walton sat D’Angelo Russell down near the end of the game, and Russell took it well. He was still engaged in the team’s fourth-quarter push, and Walton noted that Russell was a big part of the win, having contributed to the Lakers runs with his 17 points. But Russell will have to reduce his turnovers — he averages 3.2 per game and on Thursday he committed five. “He has the ball handling and passion vision not to turn the ball over,” Walton said. “We’ve seen it. He’s still young and there’s good defenders. Most teams in this league don’t jump and show high like that on pick and rolls. That’s a little bit different. He still did good things. He’s got to take care of the ball better.” Walton added that, as a former player, he understands the urge to make a fancy pass over the easy pass, but he’s looking for “singles,” not home runs.
Kings forward Rudy Gay, left, tries to drive past Lakers forward Luol Deng during the first quarter.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell is defended by Kings point guard Ty Lawson during a drive in the first half.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Lakers center Tarik Black tries to score against the defense of Kings forwards Matt Barnes, left, and Anthony Tolliver in the first quarter.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Julius Randle scores on a breakaway dunk against the Kings in the first quarter.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Kings forward Rudy Gay tries to cut off a drive by Lakers forward Luol Deng during the first quarter.(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
3. The details are foggy to Larry Nance Jr., but he did put himself in danger with his willingness to stay in the game despite a concussion on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns. After his head hit the court as hard as it did, Nance returned to the game to shoot free throws, then played longer than he should have before being taken out of the game and diagnosed with a concussion. The onus here can’t be on Nance. He doesn’t remember too much about the whole situation due to his concussion. The onus has to be on the Lakers staff not to allow him back in the game with even the potential for such a dangerous injury.
4. What’s not foggy is that the Lakers need Nance — and not just for his energy. He said after the game that he wants to lead the league in steals, and he had two in the last five minutes of the third quarter against the Kings.
5. The Lakers were able to overcome their slow start this time, but Walton doesn’t want his team getting into the habit of having to do that. He seemed upset even after their win, that it required the kind of comeback (from 19 points down) that it did.