Russell Westbrook bounced back from his nine-turnover outing on Sunday by committing zero miscues in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-114 win over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, the first time the point guard protected the ball that well in nearly six years.
Westbrook snapped a personal streak of 407 straight games with a turnover, dating back to March 14, 2016, when he played for the Oklahoma City Thunder. And the Lakers followed suit when it came to ball security. L.A. had a season-low five turnovers as a team against Sacramento, the fewest the franchise has posted in a game since 2014, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.
“It shows that when we put our mind to it we can do it as a team,” said Westbrook, who finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and a game-high plus-minus of plus-17 in 34 minutes.
LeBron James, who tallied 31 points, five rebounds and five assists to top 30 points for the eighth time in L.A.’s past nine games since Anthony Davis suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee, said the Lakers’ management of their miscues was the difference-maker.
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“Well, that’s the reason we won the game,” James said. “We won the game because we did not turn the ball over tonight. And when we get shots at the goal, we can be very dangerous. And we weren’t shooting the ball well at all, and because we didn’t turn the ball over, we caught fire. We caught fire, because we got shots at the goal and we didn’t turn the ball over.”
The Kings actually had a more efficient offensive night shooting the ball, hitting 51.8% from the field as compared to 49.5% for the Lakers — including 41.2% from 3 as compared to 34.4% for L.A. — but the Lakers had plenty more possessions and thus more opportunities to score.
“We shot the ball 99 times; they only shot it 83 [times],” Westbrook said. “We like that better than turning the ball over.”
The Kings turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 21 points for the Lakers. By taking care of the ball, L.A. was able to set its defense and hold Sacramento to just six fast-break points, well below the Kings’ average of 12.6 fast-break points per game.
“Defensively, obviously live ball turnovers kill you,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “They’re what Phil Jackson used to call ‘CFUs,’ right? Compound … mistakes. So, it hurts you on both sides.”
Westbrook was defiant after his nine turnovers in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.
“I’m allowed to miss shots. I can do that. Like any other player, I can do that,” he said. “I can turn the ball over too. I can do that.”
Vogel credited Westbrook for playing so well after the Wolves game and staying engaged. Tuesday’s victory was the Lakers’ third win in a row and fourth in their past five games to pull within a virtual tie with the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. All three teams sit five games behind the No. 4-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference standings.
“Russ is really invested in this team, you know that? He’s not always perfect, but he really cares, and he really wants to do the right thing,” Vogel said. “And I was really proud of a bounce-back performance after having that high-turnover night the last game and coming out and having zero turnovers tonight. That’s a great exhibit of ball security, which I challenge our team, not just Russ, but I challenge our team to be better with ball security. And it was a big part of the win.”
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