The Lakers and Sacramento Kings traded baskets, two opponents squaring up each other shot for shot, almost twin-like images on the basketball court for four 12-minute quarters and three five-minute overtimes. After the Los Angeles Lakers blew yet another double-digit lead before losing to the Sacramento Kings 141-137 in triple-overtime. LeBron James put the burden on himself to improve as L.A. dropped below .500 with a quarter of the season in the books.
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.
Indeed, 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.
“I felt like I played a horrible game individually, and I hold myself to a higher standard than that,” said James, whose 30 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds were marred by seven turnovers and 2-for-13 shooting from 3-point range. “I’ve got to do better for this team, especially when we’re going through what we’re going through on the floor.”
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.
L.A. led by 13 with 10:02 remaining in the fourth quarter when the Kings stormed back to go up by five with 2:26 left before the Lakers found themselves needing to come back. The Lakers tied it with a Malik Monk 3, followed by a James layup, and they had a chance to win it in regulation, but James’ 29-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer was off.
It was a recurring theme for James down the stretch, as he went 0-for-4 from deep in the extra sessions, including another miss at the buzzer at the end of the first overtime as well.
“It’s always a miss or a make situation,” said James, who couldn’t recreate the magic from the three big 3s he hit down the stretch in L.A.’s overtime win Wednesday in Indiana. “Obviously, people see the highlights and say, ‘Oh, he missed that.’ But I thought the looks that I got, I wasn’t pressured. Wasn’t sped up. Got great looks. The looks that I got tonight were actually better looks than the ones that I got in Indy. I just made them.”
The game marked the seventh time L.A. has lost this season when leading by 10-plus points, tying them with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the most in the league, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
“A game that we had control of in the fourth and let it get away,” said Anthony Davis. “And then overtimes. Did enough and then once again, they made some tough shots, made some big plays. But I feel like we had control of the game.”
In the second session, the Lakers led by 3 but couldn’t close it. In the third OT, L.A. went up 126-124 on a Russell Westbrook layup before Sacramento went on an 11-2 run to take over for good.
The loss marred the Lakers’ 4-0 record in overtime games this season and dropped their overall record to 10-11.
“One thing I live by is never, never, never panic,” said Westbrook. “Don’t panic. Stick with each other, never spread out in times like this regardless of what people may think outside of our locker room of how quickly they think we should be playing this way, that way. It’s a long year.”
If the repeated disappointments of the season have started to pile up, Davis didn’t let on, maintaining that a lengthy winning streak could be right around the corner.
“You know, 10-11, I mean, we could go on a 10-game winning streak, 12-game winning streak, now the narrative is different,” Davis said. “You know, 10-game winning streak, we’re 20-11. Now we’ll shut everybody up. But it’s on us. We’re going to have to do it. It’s not just going to be easy.”
Lakers coach Frank Vogel, who challenged his team to begin a winning streak in Indiana only to see it be halted a game later, said that the Lakers have to keep their focus on their long-term goals for the season.
“We knew the early season was going to be bumpy,” Vogel said. “This season is about peaking at the right time, and understanding that we’re going to use the 82-game season to learn each other, and to grow each day, each game. You want to win games like this, but there’s a big picture mindset that we’re taking with this team.”
Echoing his coach, Davis said he believes that everything L.A. has been through so far will only make what’s next sweeter.
“We knew coming into the season that nobody was going to give us nothing,” Davis said. “No one was going to feel sorry for us. No one was going to feel bad for us. We got to go out and take it. And that’s the fun in it. It makes it all worth it in the end when you got to grind for it and work for it like we have to. Holding the trophy at the end of the year is going to feel a lot better.”