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Lakers play down to Kings’ level and lose in triple overtime

Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony plays tight defense against Kings guard De'Aaron Fox.
Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony plays tight defense against Kings guard De’Aaron Fox during the first half Friday night at Staples Center.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

The Lakers and Sacramento Kings traded baskets, two teams matching each other shot for shot, identical mirrored images on the basketball court for four 12-minute quarters and three five-minute overtimes.

One team had four of the NBA’s best 75 players ever. The other just fired its coach after he couldn’t win 75 games in two-plus seasons.

Yeah, the Lakers looked a lot like the Kings on Friday night, an indictment considering one franchise has its eyes on a title and the other is praying for its first playoff berth in 16 years.

The Lakers lost 141-137 to Sacramento in triple overtime, their old legs finally giving way after more than three hours had passed since tipoff.

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It’s their 11th loss this season — nine more than the Western Conference-leading Golden State Warriors.

With as complete a roster as they’ve had all season, the Lakers’ flaws were on full display. They played with a lack of hustle at times, with a lack of composure at others, and with looks of confusion during the moments in between.

Lakers star LeBron James has been fined $15,000 for making an obscene gesture during the Lakers’ win in Indiana on Wednesday, the NBA announced Friday.

Why did they pass it there? Why couldn’t they get the rebound? Who was supposed to be guarding that player? Why did they get another layup?

The answers are either fatal flaws of the current roster or grounded in the team’s one remaining hope — that things will get better with time.

But the Lakers (10-11) are already 21 games into their season, the foundation for their team and identity having been built out of sand and erased with each incoming tide of adversity. Maybe, the hope is, there’s an opportunity between Thanksgiving and Christmas for the Lakers to find themselves and for the earth underneath them to start to settle.

“We haven’t really been able to see what the vision of this roster is going to look like,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said Friday morning. “… I think it really just comes down to the injuries. We haven’t been whole, and we haven’t had a chance to see what our true vision is.”

That true vision has mostly blurred out, but the things that have been focused haven’t been pretty.

Friday against an inferior Sacramento team missing two key starters, the Lakers were again all over the map, showing in short bursts that they could be a dangerous team while mostly languishing in mediocrity on both sides of the ball. It meant another coughed-up lead and another overtime, the Lakers forced to work harder and not smarter.

It was a rebound that slipped through Russell Westbrook’s hands that gave the Kings (8-12) an extra chance to tie the score. And it was an offensive rebound that gave Sacramento a third shot to send the game to overtime. This time the Kings converted — De’Aaron Fox shooting down the lane for a layup without any resistance until Anthony Davis challenged at the rim.

The Kings tied the score again late in overtime, this time on a Buddy Hield three-pointer, after they blew a seven-point lead in the bonus period. Westbrook connected with a rolling Davis for the go-ahead basket. But with three seconds left, Hield scored again, hitting a one-footed jumper to send the Lakers to a second overtime.

Though the Lakers’ defense held in the second extra period, keeping the Kings from even launching a tying shot, Sacramento prevailed.

It, like virtually every Lakers game this year, never looked easy. Westbrook and Davis both airballed jumpers, LeBron James clanked threes, and the team got badly beaten on the glass. And despite a woefully ineffective start by the Sacramento offense, the Lakers couldn’t create space because of their own inefficiencies.

With top teams such as Phoenix, Chicago and Golden State all cruising to wins against lesser teams, the Lakers mirrored their competition Friday, looking as uncomfortable with one another on the court as the Kings — who fired their coach, Luke Walton, earlier this week.

The Lakers got ho-hum production from their stars and little from their role players outside of Malik Monk and Carmelo Anthony.

After dominating against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night (and celebrating with a gesture that cost him $15,000 in a fine levied by the NBA on Friday), James struggled, turning the ball over five times in the first three quarters. James finished with 30 points and 11 assists, but he needed 25 shot attempts. He was two for 13 from three-point territory, and yet he tried to end the game from deep when he had the ball with a chance to win.

Davis had 23 points on 22 shots, with only Westbrook playing well offensively — 29 points to go with 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

But the Lakers’ 19 turnovers led to 22 points for the Kings, who were led by 34 points from Fox.

The Lakers’ carelessness combined with defensive miscues — it wasn’t uncommon to see James or Davis or Westbrook look around and shrug after some kind of error led to an easy Sacramento bucket.

It was more of the same — bad news for a team built to be the last one left standing.


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