The initial objective for coach Michael Malone was to play this last exhibition game as a regular season game and win it.
While the Kings accomplished that goal in a dramatic 93-92 win over the Lakers in Las Vegas, via a Ray McCallum put back at the buzzer off a Reggie Evans desperation shot that didn’t draw iron, it was an exhibition game that couldn’t end soon enough.
The Kings sustained injuries to key players and the status of at least two remains uncertain.
With 9:12 to go in the first quarter, Darren Collison and former King, Ronnie Price, banged knees. It knocked Price out of the game, and while Collison played on to the tune of 22 total minutes for the night, the former UCLA Bruin had ice on his knee on the bench in the fourth quarter.
Rudy Gay took an elbow to the jaw from Julius Randle with 35 seconds left in the second quarter and retreated to the locker room. Gay didn’t return to the game and will have his jaw x-rayed upon the team’s return to Sacramento.
Finally, with 3:52 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ben McLemore and Wayne Ellington banged heads in a collision that left McLemore bleeding due to a laceration above his right eyebrow requiring stitches.
And it left Ellington visibly dazed.
The former Kansas Jayhawk was escorted off the floor by Kings trainer Pete Youngman, and Ellington was helped off the floor by the Lakers training staff.
Neither returned to action.
Injuries to Gay and McLemore were confirmed to CSN Bay Area via text from the Kings PR staff.
However, the Kings trailing by 13 points with 4:29 to go battled back, demonstrating the “competitive spirit” that Malone frequently used to describe his team throughout training camp securing the win over the short-handed Lakers squad.
THE GOOD: Sacramento committed only 11 turnovers after averaging 21.3 miscues through the first six exhibition games.
The Kings held the Lakers to 16 points in the final stanza achieving their fourth quarter goal of allowing 20 or fewer points.
DeMarcus Cousins was dominant with another double-double in 26 minutes including an explosive dunk over Robert Sacre, i.e., 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Derrick Williams provided a spark off the bench, scoring 11 of his 14 points in the first half.
Ramon Sessions had eight assists and zero turnovers while chipping in 13 points.
Ray McCallum entered the game with 4:12 remaining and scored seven points including the game-winning put back at the buzzer.
THE BAD: The starting backcourt of Collison and McLemore went 1-for-10 from the floor for six points and 3 assists in just under 46 combined minutes.
In 18 minutes, Jason Thompson was quiet going 1-of-2 from the floor for two points and three rebounds.
The injuries to Collison, Gay and McLemore are also a cause for concern.
Gay's jaw x-rays came back negative. McLemore required five stitches above his right eyebrow. Both should be good to go for the Kings-Warriors opener on Oct. 29.
THE TAKE: Sacramento got the win.
Even if the win is in the preseason against the depleted Lakers, * wins at any time cannot be underestimated for the Kings as they attempt to improve on back to back 28 win seasons.
That desired improvement begins for Sacramento (3-4) in the exhibition campaign as they host the Golden State Warriors in Steve Kerr’s coaching debut in the inaugural game of the 2014-15 season on Wednesday night.
*The Lakers were without Kobe Bryant (rest), Carlos Boozer (rest), Jordan Hill (rest), Nick Young (thumb), Xavier Henry (knee), Ryan Kelly (hamstring) and Steve Nash who is out for the season (nerve damage).