There are few more crushing ways to lose a game than on a buzzer-beating three-pointer. Especially for a young Lakers team wanting to prove it would be OK in LeBron James’ absence.
The Lakers played well for most of the game, but ultimately put themselves in position to lose in that fashion. When I asked Josh Hart what he learned about the team and its young players with the way they played for much of the game, he said they didn’t learn anything. I was surprised, but he explained.
Hart felt that they already knew what they were capable of, so the way they played for much of the game Thursday night was no surprise.
Of course, playing well for much of the game, but not all of it, isn’t always enough in the NBA. Especially against a team such as Sacramento, which is so adept at comebacks.
Here are five takeaways from Thursday night’s 117-116 loss to the Kings.
1. The much ballyhooed Lonzo Ball vs. De’Aaron Fox matchup hasn’t had much life through most of their careers, but we got some of it last night. Ball and Fox seemed to feed off each other and both fell just one rebound short of triple doubles. In a cruel twist, the scorers actually gave Ball his 10th rebound, on a ball Tyson Chandler tipped to him, but later took it away and reassigned it to Chandler.
Regardless, Fox and Ball both had impressive nights. Early in the first quarter, Fox slammed home a one-handed dunk, then did a backward somersault after it. Ball missed a layup on the next play, but on the Lakers’ next possession, he hit a three-pointer.
2. Thursday’s game showed the importance of players such as James and Rajon Rondo, who will miss several weeks after having surgery.
“We were a little down, uncomposed,” Kyle Kuzma said. “I take credit for that. Fouling a three-point shooter … probably would’ve never been in that situation if I didn’t do that. It’s a learned lesson. Gotta do a better job closing out games. And just being composed.”
That’s something the veterans help them accomplish when they are on the court with them.
3. Cramps affected Ball’s availability at the end of the game. He had to leave the game a few times to be stretched for cramping in his calves. The final time he left was with 1:42 remaining in the game, just after Ball grabbed what we thought at the time was his 10th rebound.
Ball said the last time he needed attention during a game for cramps was during Summer League his rookie year. But he added that he’ll be fine for Friday night’s game against the Clippers.
4. While Sacramento has come back from big fourth-quarter deficits in its past three home games, the Lakers were complicit in allowing that to happen Thursday night. A few players said the Lakers got away from their game plan toward the end of the game.
“Got a little impatient,” Brandon Ingram said. “I think they picked up their defensive pressure and the ball kind of sticked a little bit. I know the ball sticked to my hand a little bit too much. Looking for foul calls, they just kept pushing the pressure and knocking down shots.”
5. Coach Luke Walton was frustrated that his players let foul calls get to them like they did — both calls against them and fouls they felt weren’t called. He said he told his players to let him handle the referees. Of course, when James is in the game, he does some of that too.