(Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Lakers perform in the clutch to earn 10th win of the season
LOS ANGELES – Clutch all around.
From a vintage night by LeBron James to Frank Vogel’s coaching, decorated by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s heroics and Anthony Davis’ massive rejection, the Lakers showed that gene, surviving a feisty Kings team to reach double digit wins on the season.
Friday night was shaping up to be bumpy literally from the jump, as JaVale McGee won the opening tip but Buddy Hield came up with ball. Things would only get worse with Luke Walton’s squad raining down six threes and opening up a 10-point lead.
What happened the rest of the way involved a lot more heart than teamwork. L.A. came away with the victory despite being outshot, outrebounded and finishing with less assists than the Kings.
How did it happen then? Let’s start at the end, with AD saving his best for last on one of those rare off nights from the former Pelican.
With the Lakers up by a deuce and 5.5 seconds remaining in regulation, Sacramento inbounded the ball to Harrison Barnes, who faked the handoff to Bogdan Bogdanovic, spun left and found a wide-open lane to the basket.
Or at least that’s what he thought before running into Davis at the rim, who swallowed whole his layup attempt – sealing the win to the delight of a raucous STAPLES Center crowd.
The whole sequence was a microcosm of the Lakers performance. The Kings’ trickery worked in the sense that it managed to fool Alex Caruso and James. And had Richaun Holmes stayed at the dunker spot instead of coming up to set a screen for Hield, Sacramento likely would’ve had a 2-on-1. However, Davis stuck around to protect the basket, and upon replay, Barnes didn’t stand a chance against one of the best shot blockers of the past decade.
“When you have AD at the rim, you can make up for a lot of mistakes,” James said.
Davis wound up being the hero despite scoring just six points in the first half and 17 overall. He wasn’t the only one though, as Caldwell-Pope also erupted in the 4th when the Lakers sorely needed an offensive spark.
KCP was Vogel’s choice to replace Avery Bradley in the starting lineup, but he had a single basket through 3 periods. What came next can only be considered as clutch, as he went 5-for-6 in the final stanza, scoring 12 of his 16 points thanks to a pair of threes and some other timely contributions.
The Lakers don’t win this game without him, as LeBron made clear:
“We have to have a ‘next man up’ attitude and next man was KCP tonight,” James said. “Hell of a job he had in that second half, especially in the fourth quarter shooting the ball with extreme confidence, making shots around the rim, a couple of layups, and defensively just being in tune on Buddy Hield late in that game. Game ball to KCP.”
And if being clutch was the theme of the night, LBJ didn’t disappoint either.
James led the team with 29 points and 11 assists in a game-high 40 minutes, shooting 50% from the field and 7-for-7 at the free throw line, including the pair that gave the Lakers the win.
He scored or assisted on 15 of L.A.’s 25 points in the 4th. Oh, and in the second quarter, he uncorked what’s arguably his best dunk wearing purple and gold:
His performance also included a 29-foot step back, four rebounds and three steals. The King is healthy and on a mission.
“I just feel great, man,” he reiterated post-game. “I feel great, I’ve been saying it all year just to have my spring back, to have my quick twitch back, just to be me again. I feel great.”
So do these clutch Lakers, who beat Boston by a few minutes to become the NBA’s first team to 10 wins this season.
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