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Aggressive Rajon Rondo sets tone as Kings dominate Lakers

Video: Willie Cauley-Stein said they practiced plays that improved game against Lakers

Kings rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein made his first regular-season start Friday when the Kings hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at Sleep Train Arena.
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Kings rookie center Willie Cauley-Stein made his first regular-season start Friday when the Kings hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at Sleep Train Arena.

Rajon Rondo studied up on what he needed to do to jump-start the Kings after a lackluster performance in the season opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Rondo’s film study focused on what was likely obvious to most who watched the Clippers game: He needed to be more aggressive.

Rondo asserted himself early on Friday in what became a 132-114 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers at Sleep Train Arena for the Kings’ first win of the season.

Rondo made five of his eight assists in the first quarter. He finished with 21 points in 24 minutes.

“I wanted to come out aggressive tonight,” Rondo said. “I knew I had to be a lot more aggressive than I was last game, get guys involved. I wasn’t aggressive enough for our team to be successful.”

Rondo also suggested harassing the Lakers’ guards early by using full-court defense. It helped fuel Sacramento, which scored 30 points off 19 turnovers.

“I’m not going to take all the credit,” Rondo said. “Obviously Ben (McLemore) helped me out a lot when I got tired and winded. And also Willie (Cauley-Stein). If I was beat, he was able to slow the guards down. It was a collective effort; it’s not just an individual. That’s how we have to play every game.”

The Kings displayed many traits they want to show consistently this season. They forced turnovers, pushed the pace and got to the paint for easy scores.

80 points in the paint for the Kings Friday

Sacramento scored 80 points in the paint, the most in team history since the league began tracking the statistic 20 years ago.

The previous best was 78 on April 22, 2012 at Charlotte.

“Rondo had an extra gear tonight that was pretty special,” said Kings coach George Karl. “But our pressure took their confidence away and forced them into a lot of jump shots.”

Rondo’s play and competitive drive exemplified why the Kings signed him in the offseason.

Many doubted Rondo’s ability to perform at a high level coming off a rocky stint with Dallas following a trade from Boston.

Rondo said he tunes out the naysayers.

“I go from home to the gym, gym to home,” Rondo said. “Watch ‘Scandal,’ ‘Empire,’ a lot of shows. I don’t watch the news.”

I go from home to the gym, gym to home.

Rajon Rondo

Karl said the Kings’ defense was especially good in the first half, but it tapered over the course of the blowout.

Forward Rudy Gay said the Kings played with a defense-first mentality.

“We scored off our defense and the shots came,” Gay said. “We have a great point guard who can get people open, so it was easy after that. Just play defense.”

DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks for the Kings (1-1). Gay added 19 points and three assists and Cauley-Stein had 17 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in his first NBA start.

Jordan Clarkson led the Lakers (0-2) with 22 points. Nick Young added 17 points off the bench.

Kobe Bryant had 13 points in 22 minutes. He moved into fifth place in NBA history for made field goals, passing Shaquille O’Neal with 11,330. Bryant needed two makes to pass his former teammate. He made 5 of 12 from the field.

During his pre-game conference Sacramento Kings head coach George Karl said "Finishers are the most important thing."

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings

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