Lakers, Kings renew rivalry
Where have you guys been all season?
The Lakers run into an old foe, finally, heading north to play the Sacramento Kings tonight in a rivalry that held plenty of significance earlier this decade.
Be it Doug Christie and Rick Fox throwing punches at each other in an exhibition game, Shaquille O’Neal calling the Kings the “Queens,” or Phil Jackson referring to the state capital as a “cow town,” the memories are there for the taking, even if the Kings (27-32) are on the cusp of a second consecutive losing season after a franchise-record eight playoff appearances in a row.
Regardless, the Lakers (42-18) are leery about returning to one of the more vocal environments in the league, even if it’s later than usual in the season because of a scheduling quirk.
In fact, the Kings will play a decisive part in the Lakers’ efforts to stay near the top of the Western Conference -- the teams play each other four times in the Lakers’ last 22 games.
“They’re certainly a spoiler,” Jackson said. “We are serious about how difficult it’s going to be to go there and win.”
Jackson pointed to the Kings’ 18-10 record at home, while the Lakers spoke of historical factors.
It would be impossible for Derek Fisher to talk about the Lakers-Kings rivalry without thinking of Robert Horry’s three-point dagger in the 2002 Western Conference finals or Kobe Bryant’s room-service food poisoning in the same series that led to a host of conspiracy theories.
The Lakers eliminated the Kings in all three of their most recent championship seasons.
“It was one of the great ones for a few years there, full of emotion and two really talented teams, even though we got the fair share of wins in terms of playoff series,” Fisher said. “Going back to Sacramento without the Lakers for a few years, I was still getting booed, actually, so I can’t imagine how they’re going to feel when I show up [tonight] with the purple and gold on again.”
The Lakers will be in decent shape if they put forth the same defensive effort that limited Dallas to 36.9% shooting Sunday in a 108-104 overtime victory for the Lakers. It was an important statement for the Lakers after Portland skewered them Friday for 119 points, the Blazers’ season high.
“All in all, we didn’t give [the Mavericks] any good looks, and I think eventually that wears a team down,” Bryant said. “We really got it done on the defensive end.”
The Lakers were mostly a plus against Dallas, but there was an enormous free-throw disparity helping them out -- they shot 50, the Mavericks only 25 -- and there were quiet efforts by Lamar Odom (six points in 48 minutes) and Fisher, who did not play after the 2-minute 35-second mark of the third quarter.
Jackson seemed to take the blame for the latter.
“I wanted to get Fish back in there too, but he had been sitting for so long that it was probably the right choice to just stay with the kids,” Jackson said.
It’s getting late in the season, time for Jackson to resume his part-time job as the Lakers’ unofficial sports psychologist. He told reporters about his motivational tool before the Dallas game, although he never quite documented his source.
“There was some comment after the Portland game the way they were physical with us and attacking our players,” he said. “They thought our players were wusses, and [we] weren’t going to be able to stand up and take a physical game. There’s some challenges sent out [by us] to our players.”
Jackson did not reveal whether the comment was by a reporter or, perhaps, simply his own personal take.
A slow smile spread across Fisher’s face when the Lakers guard was told about it.
“Did he say that? I think he’s implying that that’s what he may have thought,” Fisher said. “The guys that I talk to around the league, they feel like we may have a chance to win a championship. That’s the talk that I hear.
“I think that Phil’s just putting his thoughts out there and trying to put it on somebody else. But you can’t argue with his track record, so to speak. He’s been able to really put his teams together physically and mentally that they’ve been able to withstand for the long haul and been able to come out on top.”
Vladimir Radmanovic went through part of Monday’s practice and will suit up tonight against Sacramento, Jackson said. Radmanovic has sat out the last five games because of a strained right calf muscle. He is averaging 7.7 points a game this season. . . . Bryant was selected the Western Conference player of the month for February, averaging 27.2 points and 5.9 assists as the Lakers were 13-2.
at Sacramento, 7, Ch. 9
Site -- Arco Arena.
Radio -- 570, 1330.
Records -- Lakers 42-18, Kings 27-32.
Record vs. Kings (2006-07) -- 3-1.
Update -- The Kings had lost four consecutive games before beating Miami, 120-109, on Sunday. Kevin Martin is averaging a team-best 22.6 points per game and Ron Artest is averaging 19.8 points in his third season with the Kings.
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