SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Lakers looked just fine for 3 ½ quarters in their first game without LeBron James.
Down the stretch it was a different story, when the four-time MVP’s absence was noticeable and costly, even as coach Luke Walton found a variety of other reasons to blame.
Bogdan Bogdanovic made a 3-pointer at the buzzer and the Sacramento Kings rallied from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Los Angeles 117-116 on Thursday night.
“This is the first close game we’ve been in that he’s not there,” Walton said. “If LeBron James is playing in that game it probably finishes a little differently. When you get the best closer in the game on your team, then you rely on him to do that. All that said, we made enough plays to win.”
Not quite enough.
Los Angeles led 104-89 with 6:44 remaining following a dunk by Tyson Chandler before Sacramento surged back.
Bogdanovic, who had 11 points through three quarters, sparked the comeback with 12 points in the fourth, including a pair of buckets from beyond the arc.
After Justin Jackson made three free throws to tie the score at 112, Kyle Kuzma made a 3-pointer with 41 seconds remaining. De’Aaron Fox followed with two free throws for Sacramento, and Kyle Kuzma made one of two for Los Angeles with 4.6 left.
Following a timeout, Bogdanovic got the ball outside the arc and launched a 27-footer over the 7-foot-1 Chandler for the game-winner.
“We switched and I don’t think we necessarily should have switched but credit to him, he made a hell of a shot over a 7-footer at the buzzer,” Kuzma said. “It’s always a tough way to lose.”
James was held out with a groin injury, ending his consecutive games played streak at 156. He was injured during the Lakers’ 127-101 victory over two-time defending NBA champion Golden State on Christmas when he slipped while going for a loose ball.
Kuzma had 34 points to help make up for James’ absence, and Lonzo Ball added 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds. But the Lakers struggled down the stretch and lost their fourth in six games.
Walton blamed the loss on his team’s failures in rebounding and defense late in the game and not on James’ absence.
“Those type of things are what cost us the game, not not having him at the end or that shot that Bogdanovic hit,” Walton said.
Bogdanovic finished with 23 points and Fox added 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for Sacramento. Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and eight rebounds, while Iman Shumpert scored 18 points and matched his career high with six 3s.
“We keep things interesting,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “We scrambled around and got loose balls and were able to get out in transition. Heck of a win.”
BALL MISSING AT THE END
Ball was on the bench for the final few minutes after checking out of the game due to cramping. Ball said after the game he was fine and expects to play against the Clippers on Friday.
The Kings are the first team to win three consecutive home games when trailing by 15 points or more since San Antonio did it during the 2016-17 season.
Lakers: Chandler had 11 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. … Los Angeles had seven turnovers in the first quarter but none in the second. … Kuzma scored 12 points in the second quarter. … Rajon Rondo (sprained right ring finger) and JaVale McGee (respiratory infection) were inactive.
Kings: Fox made a buzzer-beating jumper to end the third quarter. … Sacramento made its first six shots then missed nine of the next 12. … No. 2 draft pick Marvin Bagley III remains sidelined with a left knee bone bruise.
Lakers: Head back to Los Angeles to host the Clippers on Friday night.
Kings: Host Portland on Jan. 1.
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