The chorus from the band Foreigner’s hit was sliced and cued up to play as soon as they announced Russell Westbrook’s name as the final player of the Lakers’ starting five.
“You’re as cold as ice.”
They played it again when he tried to squeeze a layup between the rim and the backboard and again when he couldn’t hit the elbow jumper that he likes so much.
And they played it again when Westbrook missed a three-pointer that could’ve cut the lead to one.
Ice cold indeed, Westbrook going two for 14 from the field in a 125-116 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
With the Lakers pushing to get back in the game (a push driven by Westbrook’s offensive energy and passing), he took an ill-advised three-pointer and turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions to end the third quarter.
Those mistakes led to five straight Sacramento points and the Lakers’ comeback being put back on ice.
But just like Westbrook has claimed that he can’t be judged solely on makes or misses, the Lakers have the tools to survive with one of their stars trying to thaw out. It’s just that it can’t happen like this, not with so many of the Lakers’ other issues joining Westbrook in struggling. Westbook finished with eight points, 12 rebounds and six assists. LeBron James scored a game-high 34 points and had seven rebounds and six assists. Malik Monk scored 22 points.
Beginning with four straight baskets late in the second quarter, the Lakers fumbled chance after chance because their defense allowed the Kings’ backcourt unimpeded paths to the basket.
LeBron James hung in the air as long as he could and tried to swat one layup away, but Harrison Barnes was too open and able to float the ball over his hand. It was the kind of play that repeated tine
After trailing by as many as 13, the Kings quickly flipped the game after a parade of uncontested layups against the Lakers’ helpless defense.
The Lakers did cut the deficit to 118-116 on a basket by James with 1:36 left, but De’Aaron Fox pushed the Kings’ lead to four just nine seconds later on a short jumper. Chimezie Metu’s three with 46.7 seconds left sealed it for Sacramento.
Before the game, Lakers coach Frank Vogel said his team was ready to deal with the Kings even if Sacramento’s sub-.500 record suggested things wouldn’t be too tough.
“I just think there’s a respect factor for this team,” Vogel said. “They haven’t turned the corner in terms of getting to the playoffs the last couple years, but they have a lot of young talent and a lot of firepower. … They can beat us if we don’t play to our abilities, and there’s a respect level there and we’re gonna have to play well to beat them.”
The Kings did turn the corner — over and over again against the Lakers’ perimeter defenders. And with Anthony Davis sitting on the bench in a hooded sweatshirt and jeans, the options in the interior remained limited.
Missing Carmelo Anthony for the first time this season because lower back tightness knocked him out of the lineup for the fist time this season. That meant Westbrook was the last Laker standing with perfect attendance.
“Melo’s been a real bright spot of our season. It’s the simplest way to put it,” Vogel said. “Wanting to be in there. Like, I love the old-school approach of some of our guys: Russ, [LeBron James], Melo. Those guys, it doesn’t matter how late they are in their careers, like, they want to play every night. And it’s a league where there’s a lot of load management and whatnot and those guys are really not interested in that. There’s games being played, they want to compete.”
Minus a frontcourt player, Vogel did go to Dwight Howard more frequently than usual, but he did little to prevent Sacramento’s guards — mostly Fox — from shooting uncontested layups.
“They’ve got a lot of guards that we have to try to slow down,” Vogel said pregame.
And as Buddy Hield drilled a three and looked at the Lakers’ bench laughing, it was clear that they weren’t succeeding.
As Westbrook checked into the game with just under six minutes to play, the in-arena sound engineer that had been torturing him all game cued up one more.
“Ice, ice baby.”
And the Lakers’ tough winter is just getting started.