Lakers capitalize win
Just when it looked like the Lakers would lose again to the league’s worst team . . .
OK, not really.
The Sacramento Kings once held a surprising 12-point lead, but the Lakers came back with a punishing second quarter Tuesday to breeze by the Kings, 122-104.
Kobe Bryant was effective across the board, the reserves were a pocketful of firecrackers, and the Lakers (62-16) moved within half a game of Cleveland for the league’s best record.
There have been some classic Lakers-Kings games up here, but this wasn’t one of them, not that the Lakers were complaining in the wake of a lackluster 88-85 victory Sunday over the dilapidated Clippers.
The fans at Arco Arena didn’t seem to mind either, transitioning from a typically rabid anti-Lakers crowd to, well, Staples Center North?
“It’s changed a lot,” Bryant said. “There’s nothing but Laker fans now. It’s basically a home game for us.”
Bryant had 22 points, five rebounds and four assists without playing in the fourth quarter. Pau Gasol had 26 points and 12 rebounds.
The Lakers’ reserves, led by Sasha Vujacic (12 points), Luke Walton (11 points, nine assists) and Shannon Brown (nine points), outscored the Kings’ backups, 42-22.
“It felt good to see our bench playing well and producing, contributing,” Gasol said. “We look forward to that being consistent.”
The Kings (16-61) actually beat the Lakers here in December, 113-101, though they have since gone with a youth movement after trading veterans Brad Miller and John Salmons. They also played Tuesday without leading scorer Kevin Martin (sprained ankle).
The result was predictable, though the first quarter wasn’t, the Kings taking a 29-17 lead near its midpoint.
But the Lakers cut the deficit to six by the end of the quarter and then unveiled one of their most proficient quarters of the season, scoring 40 points on 14-for-23 shooting on the way to a 71-55 halftime lead.
It was pretty much over after that.
Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was more talkative than he was after the Clippers’ game, when he offered only 33 seconds of commentary before walking out of a news conference.
And yet, his dissatisfaction was still evident before Tuesday’s game, when he acknowledged some shortcutting by the team.
“My issue with the players and the team is they’re not working hard enough. They’re saving steps,” Jackson said. “When you do that, you try to get by without having to exert yourself enough to win games the right way. Kobe’s one of those people that was doing that.
“Some of it is measuring out what it’s going to take to win a ballgame, and I understand that. This is a veteran who’s been through a lot of seasons. We just have to shorten his minutes to keep his legs lively.”
Bryant made eight of 16 shots in 30 minutes Tuesday.
The Lakers were efficient on the whole, shooting 51.1% and finishing with only eight turnovers.
It all left Bryant in an upbeat mood, even when reporters asked if Michael Jordan’s election into the Hall of Fame had him thinking about his own mortality as a player.
“Not really,” said Bryant, who will be 31 in August. “I just keep going. Hopefully, this year, end with a championship, enjoy the summer and get ready for the next one and just go from there.”