This was a tough loss for the Lakers.
Bogdan Bogdanovic drained a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the Sacramento Kings stunned the Los Angeles Lakers, 117-116, without LeBron James, on Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center.
Life without LeBron proved to be an up-and-down rollercoaster ride for the young Lakers, as the team surrendered up a 15-point deficit in the final quarter to lose in heartbreaking fashion.
"If LeBron James is playing in that game, it probably finishes a little differently," said Lakers head coach Luke Walton. "With that said, we made enough plays to win, we just didn't do enough little things."
James missed his first game since the 2016-2017 season with a left groin strain suffered on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors, and his streak of 156 consecutive games (regular season and playoffs) was snapped.
"It's one of those things we want to make sure he's healthy before we get him back out there," said Walton. "That could be an injury where if you come back too early, you re-injure it and then you're out longer. We'll be careful and cautious when he starts playing again."
Josh Hart was inserted into the starting lineup at the shooting guard position in LeBron's absence, and Brandon Ingram moved to James small forward position.
Kyle Kuzma led all scorers with 33 points and nine rebounds, as he recorded his third 30-plus point game of the season.
A pair of 207 top draft picks went head-to-head in point guards Lonzo Ball (2) and De'Aaron Fox (5). Both players nearly mirrored each other in the game, with Ball almost recording a triple-double, scoring 20 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds.
"The way Lonzo was playing tonight, I wanted the ball in his hands all the time," said Walton of Ball's performance.
Fox nearly had a triple-double himself, finishing with 15 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds.
The shorthanded Lakers trailed early, going down by a dozen to start he game before closing the quarter on a 24-9 run to take a 34-30 lead.
"Sacramento went out and punched us early," continued Walton. "I thought our guys responded to that challenge and we're out there playing like veterans. If that shot doesn't go in, everyone is impressed with the way they played."
Los Angeles led by as many as 15 points in the final frame, but the Kings came all the way back to tie the game with under a minute left to play.
Justin Jackson was fouled by Kuzma on a three-point attempt with 59 seconds remaining, and sank all three free throws to tie the game at 112-112.
"We just weren't converting," Ball said of the Kings comeback. "We were playing iso-ball and getting away from what got us the lead. We missed some shots and didn't get back, and they hit some key threes."
With the Lakers up by one, and four seconds left in the game, Brandon Ingram split a pair of free throws to give Sacramento a chance to choose between going for the tie, or going for the win.
They chose the latter, as Bogdanovic took the inbound pass and moved to his right, for a step-back, fadeaway three-pointer over Tyson Chandler that found the back of the net for the game-winning shot.
"He made a hell of a shot over a seven-footer at the buzzer," said Kuzma of Bogdanovic's buzzer-beater. "That's a tough way to lose, but it is what it is."
Bogdanovic had 12 points in the fourth quarter, and finished with a team-high 23 points off the bench in the victory.
"We left a lot out there on the table and we could have handled our business," Walton added about the loss. "Give them credit they erased a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter."
Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points, and Nemanja Bjelica finished with 18 points.
Iman Shumpert also had 18 points, tying a career-high with six three-pointers.
Buddy Hield was held in check by the Lakers, finishing with just six points, while shooting a paltry 2-of-8 from the field.
Without their leading scorer, the Lakers surpassed their season average of 113 points per game, Ingram added 22 points in the loss, Hart had 10, and Lance Stephenson finished with 10 points off the bench.
"I could have been better all around on the floor," said Ingram. " I turned over the basketball, defensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, everything."
Tyson Chandler chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.
The Lakers out-shot the Kings from the floor and from beyond the arc in the loss. Los Angeles shot 51 percent from the field and 40 percent from three, compared to 44 percent and 34 percent for the Kings.
Los Angeles has now split the first two games at Sacramento, and will meet the Kings again at Staples Center on Sunday.
Notes and Next
JaVale McGee practiced with the team and traveled to Sacramento, but did not dress for the game. LeBron James and Rajon Rondo did not make the trip and are listed as day-to-day. No. 2 overall pick Marvin Bagley III, did not play in the game with a left knee injury.
The Lakers will square off with their roommates in the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night at 7:30PM PST.