April 24, 2024

It’s hard to know the gravity of this, the Lakers being on the wrong side of dominance from another team that seems to know exactly where the weakest points are in the Lakers’ defensive plans.

In Wednesday’s 120-107 loss in Sacramento, there was a mix of disappointment and calm inside the Lakers’ locker room at the Kings’ arena.

Players like Anthony Davis lamented the two biggest reasons for the loss — turnovers and Sacramento’s offensive rebounding. Others pointed to the breakdowns that allowed Harrison Barnes to make seven of the Kings’ 19 three-pointers.

“There’s nothing we can do about this game now besides watch and learn from our mistakes and what we can do to be better, especially in that third quarter,” Austin Reaves said. “Seventeen points, something had to get stagnant with our offense. But, I don’t think the vibe in the locker room really changed. It’s not like we hate each other now. You flip the page, got to figure out what we’ve got to do to be successful moving forward.”

There wasn’t any outward table-flipping anger Wednesday despite the circumstances. The Lakers had a practice and a shootaround to prepare for the Kings because of a scheduling break that had them with two days off before and after the game in Sacramento.

“It makes us even more comfortable to pour everything — our mind, body and spirits — into tonight,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said pregame.

But it never really looked like it, particularly from the Lakers’ stars. Davis continued to lose his battles with Domantas Sabonis, an issue exacerbated as Davis missed a ton of point-blank shots. LeBron James didn’t show much juice until the fourth quarter, and his play in the third — one for six from the field with three turnovers — stagnated the Lakers’ offense and ignited the Kings.

“One of the things I just told them: Can’t skip details. We had some guys that didn’t shoot the ball well, got great looks they normally make. But just in the sense of team basketball, just continuing to have a next-play mentality,” Ham said after the loss. “You turn the ball over or it’s a quick shot or … our shot selection is a little bit off, you have to recalibrate and try to play the right way. And again, do it as a unit, not just individually trying to get yourself going. If you’re trying to get yourself going, then we’re staying organized within what we’re supposed to be doing, then great. But we can’t skip the details.”

There was some regression from the past, the Lakers stars failing to keep Reaves and Rui Hachimura, who both were hot, primarily involved in their offense, especially in the third.

Hachimura took just one shot in the second half — a three-pointer. And Reaves, who scored 19 points in the first half, got just two shots in the third quarter.

Asked if the Lakers could’ve done more to get Hachimura involved, D’Angelo Russell declined to answer.

“Yeah, I’d rather not go there with it. It’s a good game for Rui,” he said.

The Lakers largely addressed some of the issues that had cost them against the Kings in earlier meetings — the defense adjusting coverages to keep De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk from comfortably attacking the same looks over and over.

But that wasn’t enough, a reminder that some of these flaws could end up being fatal.

There’s the Lakers’ point-of-attack defense problem, where, despite solid play from Reaves over the past month-plus, the Lakers have struggled with Jarred Vanderbilt sidelined. Gabe Vincent’s recent clearance to on-court, noncontact work could eventually give the team a boost, even if there’s going to be limited time for him to get into rhythm and establish a consistent place in Ham’s rotation.

Players have hinted optimistically that both Vanderbilt and Vincent could be back soon, but with only 15 games left in the regular season, there should be real concerns about their impact.

There was familiarity in the result Wednesday, another team spreading the Lakers wide, another team hitting a barrage of open threes and feasting on the glass, another team forcing the Lakers to play consistently at a level that they were unable to reach.

“Kryptonite,” one player said on the way out of the locker room.

And the Lakers have to wonder if it’s just the Kings or symptoms of larger, unfixable problems.

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