They made mistakes just often enough for it to seem like Sacramento could sneak back into the game, but ultimately Saturday night’s game was a rare comfortable win for the Lakers.
The Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 101-86 in a game they led nearly wire to wire. They neither shot nor took care of the ball especially well. Their passing wasn’t as crisp as it normally is. But they also held the normally fast-paced Kings significantly below their scoring average and scored 20 points off Sacramento’s 19 turnovers.
“This is why defense means so much to us,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “We shot 40% from the floor tonight, we shot 30% from three, we shot 60-some percent from the free-throw line and we were still able to win by 15 points on the road because you take care of your business on the defensive end.”
Saturday’s game marked the second time all season the Kings failed to reach 100 points, and the first time they failed to reach 90. In their previous seven games, the Kings had scored at least 105 points.
The Kings fell to 7-6 while the Lakers improved to 6-6, making this the first time all season the Lakers have not held a losing record. They’ll try for their first winning mark tonight at home against Atlanta.
“We’re playing some good ball and we’re going to try to continue that to tomorrow,” LeBron James said. “…More importantly it’s just how we’re playing. The record is going to speak for itself obviously, but at the end of the day it’s how you’re playing, and right now we’re playing good ball both offensively and defensively.
James said he had a pregame headache that he thought was caused by the smoke in the arena from the wildfire burning 80 miles north of Sacramento. James played 31 minutes and finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and two assists. James’ second assist didn’t come until late in the fourth quarter. Tyson Chandler grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds for the Lakers off the bench. Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee and Brandon Ingram each scored in double figures.
Centers Chandler and McGee played exactly the same number of minutes: 23.
De’Aaron Fox led Sacramento with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
“De’Aaron Fox is one of the quickest guards in the game and I think they were No. 1 in pace,” James said. “So we made a huge emphasis on just getting back and putting multiple bodies in front of all of them.”
With 7:25 left in the second quarter, after having led by 16, the Lakers saw their lead cut to one when Willie Cauley-Stein hit a 17-foot jumper. The Lakers staved off the Kings’ push to take the lead, first with a steal by Ball. The Kings came within one of the Lakers again moments later when Fox banked in a floater, but Kuzma scored for the Lakers, then they capitalized on a Kings miss.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope grabbed the rebound and got it to Ball, who saw James heading toward the Lakers’ basket. From the opposite end of the court, Ball found James for a one-handed alley-oop dunk to stretch their lead back to five. The play was part of a 10-0 run that gave the Lakers an 11-point cushion.
The Kings cut it to three late in the second quarter, but James hit a three-pointer to give the Lakers a six-point lead at halftime.
That lead stretched to 11 by the end of the third quarter and the Kings never got closer.
“It felt good to get to garbage time today,” McGee said. “Especially before a back-to-back.”
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli