DeMarcus Cousins scored 29 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and collected seven assists as the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers by a final tally of 118-115 on Thursday night in Sacramento.
After missing three games due to a sore shoulder, Kobe Bryant returned to the Lakers' starting lineup to bid farewell to Sacramento one last time. Bryant provided LA a series of highlights but Bryant's three quarters of stellar play seemingly still had the Sacramento Kings en route to a blowout victory, but a late plot twist would make for an exciting finish.
Bryant started out scoring seven points on five shots in the first quarter, but the Lakers failed to even pretend to play defense at the start, as the Kings took an early 25-4 lead to start the game. By the end of the first quarter, the Kings had notched 38 points and taken a 17-point advantage.
Between the first quarter and the second quarter, the Kings played a tribute video to commemorate Bryant's final appearance in the state capital. Lakers general manager Vlade Divac led the fans in a standing ovation to honor Bryant, which provided an interesting moment considering Divac had been traded from the Lakers to the Charlotte Hornets for Bryant back in 1996.
In the second quarter, Bryant made five of his seven shots and added 11 points to enter the locker room with 18 points, two assists and two rebounds at halftime. Predictably, the Kings still managed to outscore the Lakers in the quarter and entered the halftime break leading by 21 points, which was down from a 24-point lead the hosts tasted earlier in the quarter.
The highlight of the first half for either team had to be Bryant going back-door on Rajon Rondo and catching an alley-oop pass from Jordan Clarkson for a dunk. The 37-year-old has dunked multiple times previously this season, but Bryant had room to spare on this occasion. The crowd serenaded Bryant with chants of "Kobe" which have become a common occurrence at home and on the road during the 2015-16 NBA season, which will be Bryant’s final NBA go-around.
In the third quarter, Bryant and the Lakers continued the same dance with the Kings. By the end of three quarters, Bryant had 28 points on 10-18 shooting to go along with three assists and two rebounds, but the Kings already had 102 points, as no defense had been played. The Lakers trailed by 16 points. With the Lakers playing again on Friday, Bryant's night ended there, as the Lakers appeared certain to collect loss no. 29 without much of a fight.
In the fourth quarter, though, D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers' rally with an 11-2 run that suddenly put LA down only nine points with nine minutes to play in the game. At the six-minute mark, the Lakers were only six points back, and the Kings' 27-point lead became ancient history. LA had the momentum, and Sacramento felt the pressure of the traveling purple and gold faithful in attendance.
At the four-minute mark, the Lakers trailed by one. About 10 seconds later, LA had the lead, and the Kings called timeout. Russell continued to score down the stretch and appeared to be the guiding force for the Lakers. Unfortunately, the 19-year-old appeared to turn his ankle on an acrobatic late basket that gave LA the lead. Russell would attempt to stay in the game but had to leave due to the pain. When he left with 1:46 to play, LA and Sacramento were tied at 113-113.
Russell left the game with a career-high 27 points, four assists and two rebounds. Asked about Russell's play, Lakers coach Byron Scott described Russell's play as "great" on TWC SportsNet.
With 21.7 seconds remaining, Rondo hit a floating jump shot in the lane to give the hosts a one point lead. With Russell in the locker room and Bryant on the bench, the Lakers put the ball in second-year Jordan Clarkson's hands. Clarkson made a careless error and committed a turnover, which resulted in a foul and the Lakers trailing by three points.
Guard Lou Williams got a late look at a three point shot to tie the game, but the shot bounced off the iron. The Lakers lost 118-115, which put LA at 8-29 on the season.
Next, the Lakers return home to play the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night at Staples Center.