After weeks of build-up, the Lakers’ opponents aren’t just saying the quiet part out loud – they’re blaring it from the rafters.

When Russell Westbrook missed a shot on Wednesday night at the Golden 1 Center, the Sacramento Kings’ game operations staff was quick to pounce: They played a clip of Foreigner’s “Cold As Ice” to mock him. And throughout the evening, Westbrook gave them plenty of reason to replay the clip.

Westbrook wasn’t the only Laker who struggled in a 125-116 loss to the Kings, but he had a look at the last meaningful shot of the game – an open look at the 3-point line – and missed it with 1:07 left with the margin at four points. It was the last of his 12 missed shots, an undeniable low point for Westbrook (eight points, 2 for 14 from the field), whose shooting has been subpar for weeks.

Even so, Westbrook was able to find a sort of gallows humor that Sacramento had fun at his expense: “I hope they played that the last 14 years, too. It’s funny they play it now. That’s cute.”

There was plenty of blame to go around, however, as the Lakers (21-21) sunk back to .500: Their defense couldn’t contain the Kings’ breakneck attack and allowed them into the lane. Sacramento shot better than 55% overall, led by De’Aaron Fox’s 29 points, and the Kings scored a staggering 70 points in the paint.

“Their dribble penetration hurt us all night,” LeBron James said.

Even James, who led the scoring effort with 34 points, had his issues on offense: He was just 13 for 29 from the field, including a 3-for-12 mark from 3-point range. The Lakers’ best individual bright spots were Malik Monk, who made six 3-pointers on his way to 22 points, and Austin Reaves who had a career-best 19 points. Those three were the only Lakers to score in double figures.

All three were a factor as the Lakers whittled a late deficit from 13 points to two with just 1:36 left. Reaves hit a pull-up, then the Lakers did something they weren’t able to do all night: get defensive stops. Monk blocked a shot that led to a James layup, then James earned a strip that led to a Monk layup. The perfect ingredients for a comeback seemed ahead of them when James rebounded a miss by Harrison Barnes (23 points) and took it coast-to-coast for a fast-break layup.

Fox put the brakes on the rally with a jumper in the lane seconds later. Then Westbrook took his open look with just over a minute left, but his fifth 3-point attempt clanked out like all the others. Chemezie Metu (14 points) locked up the win with a 3-pointer when Sacramento barreled back down the floor.

Westbrook had 12 rebounds and six assists against just one turnover, but the shooting slump was impossible to ignore. Toward the end of the third quarter, he pulled up early in the shot clock for a missed 3-point try, then turned the ball over – the mistakes led to five Sacramento points.

Over the last nine games, as the Lakers have gone to smaller lineups, Westbrook is shooting just 34.8% from the field. He hasn’t made a 3-pointer in his last six games despite 16 attempts. And though Westbrook can often be cryptic and terse in his postgame press conferences, on Wednesday night he took accountability.

“I got no excuses,” he said. “For me, I don’t point fingers. I always just look at myself and figure out ways to become better. But one thing I never do is panic. I never lack confidence in my stuff and what I’m capable of doing. But I am and will put more pressure on myself to be better, especially on offense and making sure as we move forward.”

Arguably, the fourth quarter wasn’t even the one that cost the Lakers a chance to take the season series edge on the Kings. They were outscored 40-23 in the third – a reminder of some of their early-season struggles to compete out of halftime.

For long stretches in the first half, the Lakers looked reasonably in control. That sense of confidence peaked in the second quarter, when Monk (who made his first four shots) hit a stepback 3-pointer and found Dwight Howard moments later for a layup. With 2:19 left in the half, James made a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 14-point cushion.

But they couldn’t maintain that margin before the intermission. The Kings scored eight straight points to end the half, with the final four by Fox, whose fleet footed-game kept the Lakers’ defense on its heels all evening. Sacramento scored six more unanswered points to begin the third quarter, taking control of the game.

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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