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Lakers lively in first half, fade late in preseason opener against Kings

LOS ANGELES — In the first evening of Lakers basketball in months, the most exciting moments weren’t provided by the franchise’s biggest stars.

The home crowd got the loudest for the role players: Patrick Beverley tossing an alley-oop to Juan Toscano-Anderson. Wenyen Gabriel swatting away shots. Kendrick Nunn drilling an open corner 3-pointer.

There’s a lot of work left to do, as the final score indicated in a 105-75 preseason loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday night at Crypto.com Arena. But after a woeful 2021-22 season in which the supporting cast around LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis was often criticized, at least the first half – when the veterans actually played – seemed to promise a little bit of hope.

“To give up 21 and 20 points in each quarter, that’s exactly who we want to be – who we have to be,” Coach Darvin Ham said. “Everything starts on the defensive end for us.”

Neither James, Westbrook nor Davis played more than 16 minutes, and the trio combined for only 20 points. But the Lakers led at halftime anyway, 46-41, thanks much in part to the scrappy effort by the players around them. While Davis led the scoring effort with 11 points, notably the Lakers held the Kings to 32.7% shooting.

That fell apart in the second half, when Sacramento mopped up as the hosts played rookie-heavy lineups. The Lakers still have a few bodies missing: Lonnie Walker IV (ankle sprain), Troy Brown Jr. (back soreness) and Dennis Schröder (visa delay) were not available Monday night. But that was cold comfort given that they were outscored 64-29 in the second half. Cole Swider (10 points) wound up being the only other Laker in double figures.

It left the Lakers still hunting for their first preseason win since 2020.

James had the roughest offensive outing of any Laker, shooting 0 for 7 from the field on his way to four points and two assists. But even so, the four-time league MVP took some optimism that his team was up on one of his coldest shooting nights.



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