Russell Westbrook trolled as his ‘cold-as-ice’ shooting snowballs in Lakers loss
When they announced Russell Westbrook on Wednesday, they let him know they were paying attention.
“You’re as cold as ice.”
When he missed a layup, they reminded him.
And when he touched the ball one last time, his horrible night about to mercifully end thanks to an expiring clock, the Kings’ in-arena sound team took one last shot.
“Ice, ice baby.”
The Lakers have re-signed Sekou Doumbouya, a former first-round pick for Detroit in 2019 who played two games with Los Angeles earlier this season.
“That’s funny,” Westbrook said with a smile when asked about the song drops. “I hope they played that the last 14 years too. That’s funny. That’s cute.”
Westbrook was two for 14 from the field, his offensive game abandoning him in the paint, at the elbow where he takes his favorite bank shots and beyond the three-point line where he hasn’t made a shot since Dec. 29. In the Lakers’ last four games, he’s 15 for 59.
“Man, who you telling,” he said when asked about the slump. “Can’t make a f— shot.”
With the Lakers down four with 67 seconds left, Westbrook held the ball and settled for a three from the left wing. He missed, the Kings quickly scored and the game was essentially over.
“Everyone gets frustrated when they go through a slump,” LeBron James said. “It’s natural.”
It was the Lakers’ showiest problem, one of their max players scoring only eight points on a night when he missed a dozen shots. But just because it was the most obvious problem, it wasn’t close to being the only one.
The Kings scored 70 points in the paint against a toothless Lakers defense that stretched the floor — just on the wrong end. With Lakers defenders repeatedly beaten off the dribble, coach Frank Vogel didn’t even need to go back and see the game film to dissect the moments right before the end of the first half where the game suddenly turned.
“We didn’t guard anybody,” Vogel said.
The Kings scored eight straight points heading into halftime, cutting the Lakers’ double-digit lead into a much-more manageable six-point deficit.
“We’ve got to finish quarters better,” rookie Austin Reaves said.
The same goes for defensive possessions, rotations too slow even for the best players on the court.
James hung in the air as long as he could and tried to swat one layup away, but Harrison Barnes was too open and able to float the ball over his hand. It was the kind of play that repeated over and over again as the Kings scored 40 points in the third quarter after grabbing momentum in the final minutes of the first half.
Reaves was one of the Lakers’ biggest bright spots, the undrafted rookie scoring 19 points off the bench to help make up for the team’s starting guards, Avery Bradley and Westbrook, scoring only 14 combined.
It was a career high for Reaves one game after he established that mark with 16 points against the Grizzlies on Sunday.
“He’s playing great,” Vogel said. “Simplest way to put it. Very confident.”
Malik Monk bounced back after a tough shooting night against Memphis to score 22 while hitting six of nine from three. And James continued to deliver, scoring 34 to lead the Lakers.
It’s the 11th time in the last 12 games that James scored at least 30, a stretch that began the game after the team lost Anthony Davis to a knee injury that has kept him sidelined since.
“That kind of load, I’ve been accustomed to it for 20 years,” James said.
But the wear has to be building, and though there hasn’t been a tear yet, James did miss 16 shots, including nine threes. He also missed five of his 10 free throws.
Before the game, Vogel said his team was ready to deal with the Kings even if Sacramento’s sub-.500 record suggested things wouldn’t be too tough. The Kings did, after all, beat the Lakers in triple overtime earlier this year,
Russell Westbrook hasn’t been happy much of late while playing inconsistently. Yet if he ever gets happy, will that make the Lakers a better team?
“I just think there’s a respect factor for this team,” Vogel said. “They haven’t turned the corner in terms of getting to the playoffs the last couple years, but they have a lot of young talent and a lot of firepower. ... They can beat us if we don’t play to our abilities, and there’s a respect level there and we’re gonna have to play well to beat them.”
The Kings did turn the corner — over and over again against the Lakers’ perimeter defenders. And with Davis sitting on the bench in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, the options in the interior remained limited.
Missing was Carmelo Anthony for the first time this season because lower back tightness knocked him out of the lineup. That meant Westbrook was the last Laker standing with perfect attendance.
After seemingly curing some of his turnover problems — he’s had just four in the last four games — Westbrook and the Lakers have another problem to address.
It’s not the only one — Westbrook’s game rating (minus-7) was actually better than all of the other four starters. But it’s the loudest, the easiest to see and the most obvious to sense.
Plus, it’s the only Lakers’ problem that had a soundtrack.
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