Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening road contest at Sacramento the Lakers concluding their regular season having already clinched the No. 3 seed in the West, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Sessions, Blake*, Ebanks, McRoberts and Hill
Kings: I. Thomas, T. Evans, T. Outlaw, J. Thompson, D. Cousins
*So, yeah – almost the entire starting line up – with the exception of Sessions – was out for a meaningless season finale in terms of the standings, L.A. already knowing they’ll play Denver in Round 1. Kobe Bryant was out despite having a chance at the scoring title had he scored 38 points, while World Peace was suspended, and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum resting their bodies for the playoffs.
7:00 With the Lakers rolling out their new line up, Jordan Hill impressed early, scoring six points with three boards as L.A. and Sacramento traded baskets and little defense. We learned before the game that Hill impressed enough in the double OT win over OKC to earn the third spot in the big man rotation going into the playoffs, ahead of Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy, as Mike Brown especially liked his activity on pick and roll defense. That’ll be something to keep in mind moving forward.
2:20 Sacramento opened a 26-17 lead into the under two-minute time out, getting nine points from DeMarcus Cousins, plus eight boards as he took advantage of the absence of Bynum and Gasol in the middle. He was the main reason the Kings took a 35-24 lead out of the quarter.
7:00 Impressing off LAL’s bench was rookie Darius Morris, who scored at the rim for the second straight time to go with two assists (both on fellow rookie Andrew Goudelock three-pointers) and three boards. No player on the Lakers has transformed more physically than Morris, who packed on a lot of muscle as the season has gone on, using it on those two finishes at the rim.
3:20 L.A. started to drop off in the next several second quarter minutes, missing some good looks on offense, at least until a nasty alley-oop dunk from McRoberts off a terrific Blake assist. That kept L.A. within 11, McRoberts reaching a team-high seven points with his four boards and two assists.
0:00 Sacramento took a 56-43 lead into the half behind an 11-point, 14-board double-double from Cousins, while five Lakers had at least six points in a balanced effort. What they wanted to see out of the half, however, was more aggression from Sessions, who was quiet with four points and two boards in the first half.
10:04 Apparently, Sessions was listening, as he scored eight of the team’s first 11 points out of the gate, and assisted on the other three, a triple from Steve Blake. That’s precisely what the Lakers want to see from their starting PG heading into the playoffs.
0:30.8 We’ve been alluding to Cousins’ paint dominance, and it continued as he reached 19 points with his 17 rebounds, controlling the inside for the home team. Sessions was up to 14 points with four dimes, and Ebanks had 14 points of his own after beating the shot clock buzzer with a long two. Nonetheless, L.A. trailed by 17 at 91-74 heading into the fourth quarter.
7:13 We witnessed a few fun examples of Christian Eyenga’s ridiculous athleticism, as he exploded for a one-handed tomahawk dunk from the baseline on one end, and skied for a big shot block on the other. As a team, LAL weren’t faring quite so well, trailing 99-81 as the minutes ticked away.
4:08 If you like defenseless, end-to-end hoop, you’d have had some fun with the final few minutes, as dunks and wide-open shots were the rule of law. McRoberts also rattled home his second triple, which he promised he’d do on the way to the game on the bus. Well played, Josh.
0:00 Your final: Lakers 96, Kings 113. It was fun to see several Lakers that rarely get minutes get big minutes, players like McRoberts, Goudelock, Morris and Eyenga taking advantage. McRoberts led L.A. with 16 points, nine boards and four assists, while the rookies combined for 20 points off the pine. The Lakers finish the regular season at 41-25, good for the No.3 seed, and are set to host the No. 6 seeded Nuggets starting on Sunday. See you there.