Los Angeles Lakers Crush Warriors Without LeBron James On Christmas, Can’t Close Out in The Fourth Quarter Against the Kings
On Christmas Day, LeBron James left the Lakers vs. Warriors match-up in the third quarter with a strained left groin. Still, the Lakers managed to buckle down and hand the Warriors their 12th loss of the season in a blow-out win, 127 to 101. Two days later, the injury-prone Lakers took on the Sacramento Kings and could not close out the game, losing 117 to 116.
Los Angeles Flourishes with LeBron James
On Tuesday afternoon, the Lakers headed into Oracle Arena to take on the 2-time defending NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors. It’s Christmas and everyone wants to win. That might be why the start of the game both teams were playing carelessly. For the Lakers, Brandon Ingram was off to a good start early on. B.I. used his long wingspan to take advantage of a stagnant Warriors team.
After that, it was all King James. By the end of the first quarter, he was already flirting on his way to a triple-double with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. As for the Warriors, by the end of the first, they were shooting a poor 3-of-12 from 3-point range. Their 3-pointers would not improve for the rest of the game.
By the end of the half, the Lakers were up 65 to 50. James had been the driving force for the Lakers, but that didn’t mean he was the only one putting in the work. As a unit, the Lakers were shooting 58.1% from the field and 46.7% from 3-point range at the half. Compared to a lackluster Warriors team, the Lakers were succeeding. Golden State continued to be ineffective on both sides of the court.
It was then in the 3rd quarter when LeBron James stopped and felt something pop, holding on to his leg near the groin area. He headed to the locker room and did not play for the rest of the game. The Warriors took advantage and in the third went on a 19-7 run, cutting the lead to 2-points and coming alive in the midst of confusion surrounding the Lakers. However, in a short amount of time, the Lakers managed to regroup and find their rhythm without LeBron. The 4th quarter was yet again all Lakers basketball. The purple and gold were back to pushing the ball up the floor with confidence and aggression. Rajon Rondo orchestrated his teammates and was able to set them up to pull away with the win. With a 23-point lead, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr pulled in his starters and the game was basically over.
Lakers Step Up in James’ Absence
When LeBron James went down in the third, it appeared as if the Lakers were going to crumble under the pressure. However, the perfect mixture of veterans and young Lakers core kept them alive and ultimately led them to the win.
Rajon Rondo was one of the veterans to step up in James’ absence. His innate ability to set up the court and his teammates in the correct spots re-sparked the L.A. offense. Rondo was finding Lakers all over the place, finding a rhythm in center Ivica Zubac. Both their efforts in the 4th quarter allowed the Lakers to pull away. Both ended the night with a double-double, Zubac with 18 points, 11 rebounds and Rondo with 15 points and 10 assists.
Lance Stephenson‘s presence was also felt. Stephenson had been inconsistently part of the Lakers rotation. Yet, when he was needed the most Stephenson was able to step up and play. In just 11 minutes he got himself 11 points and made a very important 3-pointer to end a Warriors run in the 3rd quarter. He ended the night on 4-of-6 from field goal range and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. In the summer, Stephenson’s addition to the Lakers was deemed as odd and many criticized his fit into the organization. On Tuesday, the Lakers proved their point.
Brandon Ingram also stepped up in James’ absence. He continued to defend Golden State’s All-Stars all the while being aggressive on the offensive end. Even Lakers’ rookie Svi Mykhailiuk, with only being on the floor for 2 minutes, made both his 3-point attempts, further extending the Lakers lead. Not only did they reinforce their team, but they were also to stop a deadly Warriors run without James.
Lakers’ Fourth Quarter Failures Against the Kings
After winning at Golden State, the Lakers contest against the Kings would heavily depend on their young core as James, Rondo, and McGee would not play. For most of the game, the Lakers were in control. Continuing to play with aggression and playing in rhythm. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the Lakers began to play carelessly, committing turnovers and performing unassertively. The Kings would take advantage and go for a run to get them within one with less than a minute left in the game. Ingram missed a critical free-throw and gave the Kings the last chance play. Bogdan Bogdanovic, who had been struggling with his shot, made the buzzer-beating three-pointer to end the game.
The Lakers fell into a false sense of confidence in the fourth, followed along with sloppy basketball. They stopped playing transition defense, granting a path for the Kings. Their frustration with the calls towards the end did not help either. They lost their focus on the fundamentals of basketball and allowed Sacramento to win.
What to Look Out For In The Next Couple Of Games
The Lakers will have to continue to step up as James is expected to miss multiple games with a strained groin. Luckily for the Lakers, an MRI on Wednesday revealed it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Rondo also sprained his right finger in Tuesday’s game and will be out for more than a month as he is expected to have surgery. Along with James and Rondo, McGee is still questionable and will not play until further notice.
The Lakers will have to dig down deep and play with the same intensity they fought with against the Warriors, especially with a few of their teammates out with injuries. The Lakers next game is on Friday against the LA Clippers and then a rematch against the Kings on Sunday.