LOS ANGELES — Russell Westbrook bounced back from nine turnovers Sunday by committing zero turnovers 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 had 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, 7 rebounds and a game-high plus-minus of plus-17 in 34 minutes.
LeBron James, who had 31 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists to top 30 for the eighth time in L.A.’s last nine games since Anthony Davis went out with a sprained MCL in his left knee, said the Lakers’ management of their miscues was the difference-maker.
“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 compared to 49.5% for the Lakers — including 41.2% from 3 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 held Sacramento to just six fastbreak points, well below the Kings’ 12.6 fastbreak points per game average.
“Defensively, obviously live-ball turnovers kill you,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “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-turnover outing 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 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.”