The Los Angeles Lakers have hit a funk as of late, mostly due to the groin injury to LeBron James. Now missing his third consecutive game, the Lakers were forced to rely on their youth to get them out of a slump. They did, however, see the return of JaVale McGee to the lineup after a missing a long stretch of games due to pneumonia.

The Lakers needed to put their last meeting against the Kings behind them, after suffering a disappointing loss in buzzer-beater fashion just two games prior.

The Lakers got off to a fast start against the Kings on Sunday night, outscoring Sacramento 37-31 in the first quarter. The second quarter saw the opposite, as the Kings outscored the Lakers 37-27 to take a 4-point lead at halftime.

They followed that up with an exciting fourth quarter, but it was the Lakers who came up big in the final few minutes to walk away with a 7-point victory.

The third quarter was yet another shoot-out for both teams as KCP scored 12 points to keep the Lakers within reach as both teams scored 28 points in the quarter. They followed that up with an exciting fourth quarter, but it was the Lakers who came up big in the final few minutes to walk away with a 7-point victory.

The Lakers saw big production from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (26 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals), Josh Hart (22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Brandon Ingram (21 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks). Kyle Kuzma chipped in with a good game as well, finishing with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists.

Lonzo Ball added 13 points, 2 rebounds and 6 assists.

First Quarter:

Josh Hart opened up the scoring with a three-pointer as the Lakers looked to get off to a fast start. Kuzma followed that up with a three of his own, while a bucket down low by McGee and floating layup by Ingram brought the Lakers to a 10-7 lead just three minutes into the game.

A small run by the Kings saw them take their first lead of the game, but another three by Kuzma and dunk by Chandler gave the Lakers the lead again.

Both teams continued to trade blows, with Ingram hitting a pull-up jumper and Josh Hart converting an and-one to give the Lakers a five-point lead. A small run by the Kings saw them take their first lead of the game, but another three by Kuzma and dunk by Chandler gave the Lakers the lead again.

a 6-0 run by the Lakers -- consisting of a four-point play by Hart and alley-oop by Chandler -- gave the Lakers a 29-26 lead.

Another small run by Sacramento brought the game to 24-20. Chandler scored his second bucket of the game, and then a 6-0 run by the Lakers -- consisting of a four-point play by Hart and alley-oop by Chandler -- gave the Lakers a 29-26 lead.

In the final two minutes, Stephenson hit a long range jumper and KCP chipped in 5 points as the Lakers took a 37-31 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Q1 Score: Los Angeles Lakers 37 - 31 Sacramento Kings

Q1 MVP: Josh Hart (10 points, 1 assist, 1 steal)

Second Quarter:

The first couple minutes of the second quarter saw the Kings retake the lead, but 4 points by Stephenson kept it a tied game. Buckets by KCP and Lonzo Ball helped the Lakers to another lead as the lead-changes continued to pile up. A driving layup by Lonzo tied the game up again, followed by a three-pointer from Hart in response to a Kings’ three-pointer.

As we entered the halfway point of the quarter, Josh Hart connected on a layup, but an and-one by Sacramento gave them a 3-point lead. Back-to-back buckets down low by Ingram and Hart got the Lakers back on track.

The Kings were getting it done on the fast break, which was making all the difference in this one as both teams battled it out.

In the final three minutes of the half, Ball, Hart, McGee and Ingram all scored 2 points, but the Kings stayed hot and walked into the locker room with a 4-point lead over the Lakers. The Kings were getting it done on the fast break, which was making all the difference in this one as both teams battled it out.

Halftime Score: Los Angeles Lakers 64 - 68 Sacramento Kings

Q2 MVP: Josh Hart (7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist)

Third Quarter:

McGee, Hart and Lonzo each scored down low early on in the quarter, but the Lakers were still down 3 points after 3 minutes of play.

The third quarter was another shoot-out between the Lakers and Kings as both teams continued to pile it on with three-pointers. McGee, Hart and Lonzo each scored down low early on in the quarter, but the Lakers were still down 3 points after 3 minutes of play. A 5-0 run by Sacramento extended that lead.

Ball and Ingram put an end to the run with 2 points each, but it was an 11-0 run by LA that tied the game up with just over 3 minutes remaining in the quarter. The run consisted of an and-one by KCP, two 3-pointers by KCP and a couple of free throws by Kuzma as KCP started to heat up.

Another small run by Sacramento depleted the Lakers’ lead, but KCP sunk yet another three-pointer from way downtown with just seconds remaining.

A free throw by Ingram gave the Lakers the lead again, followed by a three-pointer by Kuzma to keep that lead. Another small run by Sacramento depleted the Lakers’ lead, but KCP sunk yet another three-pointer from way downtown with just seconds remaining. Down by 1, the Lakers allowed another three-pointer by the Kings with 5 seconds left.

The Lakers were down 4 heading into the final quarter.

Q3 Score: Los Angeles Lakers 92 - 96 Sacramento Kings

Q3 MVP: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12 points, 3 3PT)

Fourth Quarter:

Shortly after, a free throw by Hart tied the game up with just over 9 minutes remaining.

The Kings opened the final quarter with another three-pointer, but Javale McGee followed that up with a running hook shot to keep the Kings’ lead at 5 points. A three-pointer by Ball brought that lead to 4 after a driving layup by the Kings, while another three from KCP brought the deficit to just 1. Shortly after, a free throw by Hart tied the game up with just over 9 minutes remaining.

The Kings went on a 7-0 run to retake the lead, but Ingram put an end to the run with a mid-range jumper. Both teams went silent for a couple of minutes, with the Kings putting an end to the silence. The Lakers responded with a three by Kuzma after winning a 50-50 ball with the Lakers down by 4.

Ingram hit a contested mid-range jumper to tie the game up, followed by a three-pointer as Ingram heated up.

With 3:30 remaining in play, Ingram converted a beautiful driving layup to bring the Lakers that much closer to the lead. Not long after, Ingram hit a contested mid-range jumper to tie the game up, followed by a three-pointer as Ingram heated up. KCP continued the run by the Lakers as they reached 12 points unanswered.

a missed shot by the Kings led to Kuzma heading to the line, and he hit both of them to take a 9-point lead with 20 seconds remaining.

In the final minute of play, Josh Hart hit a tough driving layup to keep the lead at 5 as the Kings were forced to send LA to the free throw line. 2 free throws by KCP extended the lead, a missed shot by the Kings led to Kuzma heading to the line, and he hit both of them to take a 9-point lead with 20 seconds remaining.

The Kings didn’t have enough juice to come back, as the Lakers finished with a 7-point victory.

Final Score: Los Angeles Lakers 121 - 114 Sacramento Kings

Q4 MVP: Brandon Ingram (9 points, 1 steal, 1 block)

The Lakers allowed a ton of easy shots by the Kings, but they kept themselves within reach by making a ton of threes themselves. In the past week, the Lakers and Kings have given basketball fans two great games that went down to the wire. In each game, the team that was down late, ended up pulling away with a victory.

The Lakers shot 48% from the field, 34% from long range (15 3PT), and 60% from the charity stripe. They added 50 rebounds, 12 offensive rebounds, 30 assists, 7 steals, 5 blocks, 14 turnovers, 13 points off turnovers, 12 fast break points and 52 points in the paint.

Los Angeles will have two days of rest before meeting up with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on January 2nd for their first game of 2019. They will definitely have the momentum, but will need to play better defense and limit turnovers against a scary team led by Russell Westbrook.

by Ryan Brennan

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