The Los Angeles Lakers looked just fine for 3½ 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 factors to blame.
Sacramento’s Bogdan Bogdanovic made a three-pointer at the buzzer and the host 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 in the fourth, six points coming on two buckets from beyond the arc.
Following a timeout with 4.6 seconds remaining, Bogdanovic collected the inbound pass and launched a 27-footer over the 7-foot-1 Chandler for the 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,” the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma said. “It’s always a tough way to lose.”
James was held out because of a groin injury, ending his games-played streak at 156. He was injured in a 127-101 victory over the Warriors 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.
Bogdanovic finished with 23 points and De’Aaron Fox added 15 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds for Sacramento. Willie Cauley-Stein had 19 points and eight rebounds, and Iman Shumpert scored 18 points.
“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.”
Rockets 127, Celtics 113: James Harden thinks he should be in the MVP discussion again this season and showed why. Harden had 45 points and six assists, Clint Capela added 24 points and 18 rebounds, and host Houston picked up its eighth win in nine games. Harden, who was playing on a bruised left calf, had 17 points in the first quarter and finished 11-for-26 from the field, including 9-for-18 from beyond the arc.
Bucks 112, Knicks 96: Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 14 rebounds, Khris Middleton added 25 points and host Milwaukee rolled to its sixth win in seven games. The Bucks swept the home-and-home series, having won in New York 109-95 on Christmas.
76ers 114, Jazz 97: JJ Redick scored 24 points and Joel Embiid had 23 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks to help Philadelphia cruise past host Utah. Ben Simmons, who was selected over Utah’s Donovan Mitchell as Rookie of the Year last season, had his fifth triple-double of the season with 13 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Kings-rally-over-Lakers-13494725.php.