Lonzo Ball vs. Sacramento
Lonzo Ball dribbles against the Sacramento Kings on Dec. 27, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Los Angeles Lakers)

Shorthanded Lakers Stunned By Kings' Buzzer-Beater

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

After defeating the defending-champion Warriors on Christmas night — largely without superstar LeBron James — Josh Hart delivered a promise: “If he’s down, we’re ready to step up. None of us are scared of the spotlight.”

With James, Rajon Rondo and JaVale McGee all out for Thursday’s game in Sacramento, the Lakers’ young core proved their fearlessness, even if it came attached with some hard-to-swallow lessons from a last-second loss.

Kyle Kuzma went off for 34 points and nine rebounds. Brandon Ingram added 21 points of his own. Lonzo Ball neared a triple-double with 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.

But the Lakers surrendered a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead, ultimately falling by a single point on Bogdan Bogdanovic’s insane 3-pointer over Tyson Chandler’s arms at the buzzer.

“Credit to him,” Kuzma said after the 117-116 loss. “Hit a tough shot over a 7-footer at the buzzer. Tough way to lose.”

With a super-young starting lineup — Ball, Hart, Ingram, Kuzma and Ivica Zubac — all 23 years old or younger, the Lakers seized control for most of the game.

Kuzma was the team’s chief scorer, notching his third 30-point game of the season, mainly by attacking off the dribble. He also found a psychic-like connection with Ball, who assisted on half of Kuzma’s 12 baskets.

Lonzo, meanwhile, finished just one board short of a triple-double — which he likely would have reached were it not for calf cramps taking him out of sections of the game, including the final 102 seconds.

“I was just tying to be aggressive,” Ball said. “We were missing Bron, missing Rondo. I just tried to step up personally.”

Ball did carry the Lakers for stretches, shooting 8-of-13 from the field with four 3-pointers. As the lead playmaker in James and Rondo’s absence, he also had his most effective pick-and-roll game yet, accounting for five assists and three buckets out of P&R.

“The way Lonzo was playing tonight, I want the ball in his hands all the time,” coach Luke Walton said.

And Ingram pitched in by hitting some tough shots for the Lakers, getting to his spots around the fringes of the paint to sink pull-ups and fadeaways.

But all that firepower wasn’t enough against the Kings (19-16), who have rallied from 15-point deficits in all of their last three wins.

The Lakers (20-15) appeared on track for a victory when Lonzo hit Chandler (11 points, 10 rebounds) for an alley-oop, extending their lead to 104-89 with 6:44 left.

But Sacramento ignited from there, responding with a 22-9 run to tie the game with a minute remaining.

“We were doing a lot of iso ball,” Ball said, “getting away from what got us the lead.”

The teams traded scores from there, with Kuzma starting off by sinking a clutch step-back triple for a three-point advantage.

De’Aaron Fox (15 points, 12 assists) answered by hitting a couple free throws, and then Ingram went 1-for-2 at the line, giving the Kings the ball back for one final possession down by two.

Sacramento ran a well-designed play, getting Chandler switched onto their long-range specialist. Though Chandler forced Bogdanovic to take a tough shot, the sharpshooter nonetheless launched a rainbow that somehow found the bucket with zero on the clock.

While the wild finish stung as much as a regular-season loss could, the Lakers’ head coach was more concerned with his team not taking care of “the little things,” including missed box-outs and unnecessary complaining to officials.

“You don’t let it get to that one shot,” Walton said. “Guys in this game are really good. They can hit crazy game-winners like that. Take care of our business before it gets to that, and we don’t have to worry about whether fadeaway [27]-footers go in or not.”

Notes
Bogdanovic led Sacramento with 23 points, while Iman Shumpert had 18 points, all on six 3-pointers. … The Lakers shot 51.1 percent from the field and 40.0 percent on 3-pointers. … Sacramento had a 16-9 advantage in offensive rebounds.

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