Reporting from Sacramento
It was a day of good news and controversial news for the Lakers, all of it wrapped around a day on which they were playing for a Western Conference playoff seeding and a game in which they hoped would further put their tumble behind them.
The day began with positive results regarding knee injuries to center Andrew Bynum and reserve forward Matt Barnes. The day continued to unwind with Kobe Bryant getting fined by the NBA for an anti-gay slur.
An eventful day then turned into an even more eventful night when the Lakers blew a 20-point fourth-quarter and were forced into overtime to pull out a 116-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night at Power Balance Pavilion.
The Lakers won the season series against New Orleans, 4-0. Worse for the Hornets, they won't have forward David West, who is out for the season after having left knee surgery.
"It's a whole new ballgame when it comes to the playoffs," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "New Orleans faded at the end of the year, but they are a very talented team."
The Lakers and Mavericks finished with identical 57-25 records, but L.A. had the tiebreaker over Dallas. The Lakers were also 57-25 last season when they won their second consecutive title.
To get that 57th victory, Bryant took charge with 36 points. He made a three-point shot to tie the score at 99-99 with 4.8 seconds left in fourth quarter, then scored five points in the overtime and two assists.
"We played all right," Jackson said. "We just didn't finish off the game."
Bynum, who was thought to have suffered a hyperextended right knee during Tuesday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs, had an MRI on Wednesday that revealed a bone bruise.
The Lakers said it was not considered serious and are hopeful that Bynum, who didn't make the trip here, can play when the playoffs start.
"We'll have to see how he plays, how he reacts to this," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "We're optimistic. Obviously he got a reading that sounds good. It's still getting him on the floor playing at the level he left that'll make us a really good team, and so we have to bring that back. Hopefully he can play on Sunday and contribute."
Barnes, who sat out Tuesday night's game because of a sore right knee, also had an MRI on Wednesday that showed no damage on the knee he had surgery on in early January. Barnes also is expected to play Sunday in the playoffs.
The bad revolved around Bryant, who was fined $100,000 by the NBA Wednesday for his slur during Tuesday's game against San Antonio.
With Bynum, Barnes and Steve Blake (chickenpox) all home in Los Angeles, the Lakers recalled Derrick Caracter from the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League and signed guard Trey Johnson from the same team.
Johnson played 13 minutes and scored six points and Caracter played two scoreless minutes for the Lakers, who may have played their last game in Sacramento if the Kings are allowed to relocate to Honda Center in Anaheim next season.
When the final buzzer sounded, many fans refused to even leave their seats.
Some stood and cheered. Others took pictures. Most stood stoically, glancing around the arena.
Players quickly exited to the locker room, high-fiving fans heading as they went into the arena's tunnel. The Kings' dance team stood at halfcourt, hugging, crying, and saying goodbye.
The Lakers have more work to do.