Lakers lose to Kings as Russell Westbrook’s slump continues – Daily News

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  • Lakers forward LeBron James handles the ball as Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III defends during the first half of Wednesday night’s game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook and Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu battle for position under the basket during the first half of Wednesday night’s game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker gets off a shot over Sacramento Kings center Alex Len during the first half of Wednesday night’s game in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Injured Lakers forward Anthony Davis, center, talks with coaches during a timeout in the first half of their game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers forward LeBron James dunks during the first half of Wednesday night’s game against the Kings in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers forward LeBron James, right, talks to referee Derek Richardson, during a timeout in the first half of Wednesday night’s game against the Kings in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook tries to drive on Sacramento Kings guard Davion Mitchell, left, during the first half of Wednesday night’s game in Sacramento. Westbrook had another rough shooting night and has made just four of 26 shots in the last two games. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton blocks a shot by Lakers guard Avery Bradley during the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox drives past Lakers guard Austin Reaves during the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers forward LeBron James is defended by Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III during the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers forward LeBron James reacts after missing a 3-point shot during the second half of their game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield, right, talks with acting head coach Alvin Gentry during the second half of their game against the Lakers on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III pulls the ball away from the outstretched arms of Lakers guard Russell Westbrook as Lakers forward Stanley Johnson, back, looks on during the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers forward LeBron James passes off while defended by Sacramento Kings center Alex Len, right, and guard De’Aaron Fox, left, during the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu hangs from the rim after dunking during the second half of their game against the Lakers on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers guard Russell Westbrook listens to Coach Frank Vogel during the second half of their game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, right, falls as he runs into Lakers forward LeBron James on a drive to the basket during the second half on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Lakers forward LeBron James dunks during the second half of their game against the Kings on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

  • Sacramento Kings forward Chimezie Metu celebrates after making a 3-point shot late in the second half of their victory over the Lakers on Wednesday night in Sacramento. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas)

After weeks of build-up, the Lakers’ opponents aren’t just saying the quiet part out loud – they’re blaring it from the rafters.

When Russell Westbrook missed a shot on Wednesday night at the Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings’ game operations staff was quick to pounce: They played a clip of Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” to mock him. And throughout the evening, Westbrook gave them plenty of reason to replay the clip.

Westbrook wasn’t the only Laker who struggled in a 125-116 loss to the Kings, but he had a look at the last meaningful shot of the game – an open look at the 3-point line – and missed it with 1:07 left with the margin at four points. It was the last of his 12 missed shots, an undeniable low point for Westbrook (eight points, 2 for 14 from the field), whose shooting has been subpar for weeks.

Even so, Westbrook was able to find a sort of gallows humor that Sacramento had fun at his expense: “I hope they played that the last 14 years, too. It’s funny they play it now. That’s cute.”

There was plenty of blame to go around, however, as the Lakers (21-21) sunk back to .500: Their defense couldn’t contain the Kings’ breakneck attack and allowed them into the lane. Sacramento shot better than 55% overall, led by De’Aaron Fox’s 29 points, and the Kings scored a staggering 70 points in the paint.

“Their dribble penetration hurt us all night,” LeBron James said.

Even James, who led the scoring effort with 34 points, had his issues on offense: He was just 13 for 29 from the field, including a 3-for-12 mark from 3-point range. The Lakers’ best individual bright spots were Malik Monk, who made six 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, and Austin Reaves who had a career-best 19 points. Those three were the only Lakers to score in double figures.

All three were a factor as the Lakers whittled a late deficit from 13 points to two with just 1:36 left. Reaves hit a pull-up, then the Lakers did something they weren’t able to do all night: get defensive stops. Monk blocked a shot that led to a James layup, then James earned a strip that led to a Monk layup. The perfect ingredients for a comeback seemed ahead of them when James rebounded a miss by Harrison Barnes (23 points) and took it coast-to-coast for a fast-break layup.

Fox put the brakes on the rally with a jumper in the lane seconds later. Then Westbrook took his open look with just over a minute left, but his fifth 3-point attempt clanked out like all the others. Chemezie Metu (14 points) locked up the win with a 3-pointer when Sacramento barreled back down the floor.

Westbrook had 12 rebounds and six assists against just one turnover, but the shooting slump was impossible to ignore. Toward the end of the third quarter, he pulled up early in the shot clock for a missed 3-point try, then turned the ball over – the mistakes led to five Sacramento points.

Over the last nine games, as the Lakers have gone to smaller lineups, Westbrook is shooting just 34.8% from the field. He hasn’t made a 3-pointer in his last six games despite 16 attempts. And though Westbrook can often be cryptic and terse in his postgame press conferences, on Wednesday night he took accountability.

“I got no excuses,” he said. “For me, I don’t point fingers. I always just look at myself and figure out ways to become better. But one thing I never do is panic. I never lack confidence in my stuff and what I’m capable of doing. But I am and will put more pressure on myself to be better, especially on offense and making sure as we move forward.”

Arguably, the fourth quarter wasn’t even the one that cost the Lakers a chance to take the season series edge on the Kings. They were outscored 40-23 in the third – a reminder of some of their early-season struggles to compete out of halftime.

For long stretches in the first half, the Lakers looked reasonably in control. That sense of confidence peaked in the second quarter, when Monk (who made his first four shots) hit a stepback 3-pointer and found Dwight Howard moments later for a layup. With 2:19 left in the half, James made a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 14-point cushion.

But they couldn’t maintain that margin before the intermission. The Kings scored eight straight points to end the half, with the final four by Fox, whose fleet footed-game kept the Lakers’ defense on its heels all evening. Sacramento scored six more unanswered points to begin the third quarter, taking control of the game.

Coach Frank Vogel said he thought that too often, the Lakers left their teammates on an island to be beaten one-on-one.

“Second game in a row the defense let us down,” Vogel said. “In the last game (against Memphis), second and third quarter. This game, the third quarter. So we have to figure what we’re doing there and be better in that situation.”

The Lakers have two days before their next game, against reigning league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in Denver.

While James acknowledged that it’s disappointing past the midway point to be .500 and tied for seventh in the Western Conference standings, he still believes getting to a contending level is possible.

“If you’re trying to jockey for position or gear up towards the playoffs, you want to be hitting your stride at the right time,” he said. “We have 42 games now (done), and 40 left, and we want to see what we’re made of. But it’s definitely been a roller coaster so far.”

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