The Lakers have rebounded from a three-overtime home loss to the Kings in November to win two straight in the series, including 117-92 when the clubs last met in Sacramento on Nov. 30. Anthony Davis (25 points) and Russell Westbrook (23) led the way in that one while LeBron James sat out (COVID protocol).
Davis was out with a sprained left knee when the clubs hooked up again in Los Angeles last week, but James was back and contributed 31 points to a tightly contested 122-114 Lakers victory.
It was the third victory in a four-game winning streak for the Lakers that ended Sunday night in a 127-119 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
James continued his brilliant play of late with 35 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in the loss. He has averaged 34.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in his last 11 games.
More important, James noted, is that the Lakers have been playing some of their best basketball of the season over the last five games.
«I know what I bring to the table every night. I know what I’m capable of doing every night,» James said. «But I want that to result in wins, and that’s just always been my mindset in this league.»
The Lakers’ four wins since Dec. 31 equal the Kings’ total since Dec. 19, a 13-game stretch in which Sacramento has lost five straight.
The skid came one shot from ending Monday night at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but after a late 9-0 flurry got the Kings within one, De’Aaron Fox couldn’t connect on a buzzer-beating 15-footer and Sacramento came up short 109-108.
«If you tell me that I could get De’Aaron Fox a foul-line jump shot to win the game, I’ll take that,» Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry said after the loss. «If we play that way night in and night out, we’ll change the direction of our team.»
Guards Tyrese Haliburton (21 points) and Buddy Hield (five 3-pointers, 19 points) helped keep the Kings in the game while they struggled through a night in which big men Richaun Holmes and Damian Jones were in the COVID protocol and Tristan Thompson was out with a sore right quad.
Rookie Neemias Queta took advantage to record his first NBA points in his fourth career game, finishing with 11 plus a season-high-tying five rebounds in a season-best 24 minutes.
The big numbers came less than a month after Queta became the first player from Portugal ever to play in an NBA game.
While the contest could see James and Queta in an unusual matchup of centers, it also will pit two of the league’s hottest 3-point shooters — the Kings’ Hield and Lakers’ Malik Monk.
Hield has gained ground on Stephen Curry in the competition for most 3-pointers in the NBA this season with 25 this month, more than double the number of the Golden State star (12). He has gone 25 of 55 (45.5 percent) over his last six games.
Meanwhile, Monk has been even more accurate (51.4 percent) while connecting on 18 of 35 in his last four outings.
–Field Level Media