The Los Angeles Lakers snapped a two-game losing streak in what was their final game of the 2018 calendar year, defeating the Sacramento Kings, 121-114, at Staples Center.
While LeBron James and Rajon Rondo remained sidelined with respective injuries, the Lakers saw the return of center JaVale McGee. The seven-footer had missed the previous seven contests battling flu-like symptoms and pneumonia.
Despite the lengthy absence, McGee immediately picked up from where he last left off with 8 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 block in 23 minutes of playing time. “I felt pretty good,” he said of returning. “A little out of shape but it felt pretty good being out there.”
Having lost to the Kings just three days prior on a Bogdan Bogdanovic buzzer-beater, the Lakers flipped the script against their Western Conference rival, this time overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit to secure a comeback win.
McGee believes the team’s aggressiveness on the defensive side helped prevent another Kings’ fourth quarter scoring surge. “Just trying to be more aggressive and not let them move around freely,” he explained. “I felt like guys really picked it up.”
McGee opined that his presence on defense played a key role in slowing down the Kings, to which he zeroed in on. “Definitely block shots and contest at the rim,” McGee said. “I didn’t really have a lot of blocks but I felt like I contested a lot of shots and altered a lot of shots that would’ve gone in if I wasn’t there.”
With the victory, the Lakers improved to 1-2 in temporary life without James while he recovers from a significant strained groin. Even when he does return, McGee believes the team needs to keep their foot on the gas.
“Definitely the aggressiveness,” McGee noted. “It feels like sometimes when LeBron is out there we stand around and are stagnant.”
Lakers head coach Luke Walton was happy to pencil McGee back into the starting lineup. “I’ll start by saying it was nice to have JaVale back out there tonight,” Walton said. “He wanted more minutes than he got, but just for our whole team, it was nice to have him back on the court.”
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