Lakers Crush Kings
Kobe Bryant's injured finger is no problem, as he proved while waving goodbye to Sacramento. Pau Gasol is doing fine on his sprained ankle, and Derek Fisher's right foot isn't slowing him down.
Even Vladimir Radmanovic's head is screwed on straight as the healing Los Angeles Lakers roll toward the playoffs.
Bryant scored 29 points, Radmanovic matched his season high with 21 and the Lakers stayed on track for the Pacific Division title with a 114-92 victory over the Kings on Sunday night.
Radmanovic hit five 3-pointers and tied his career high with 14 rebounds after a pleading pregame pep talk from coach Phil Jackson, while Gasol added 20 points and nine rebounds as the Lakers won their fourth straight.
The Lakers' easy victory over an exhausted opponent wasn't a surprise, even though another new injury popped up before the game for a team with more than its share.
Luke Walton sat out with a strained right hamstring, yet Radmanovic seamlessly filled his minutes with good rebounding and an acumen for tough shots - including last-second scores at the end of the first and third quarters.
``We've been looking for some consistency,'' Jackson said of his enigmatic Serbian swingman. ``We need him to play well, and we want to have some idea of what's going to happen, and whether we can depend on him.''
Jackson said he's repeatedly suggested Radmanovic should talk to the Lakers' team psychologist to get to the bottom of his inconsistent effort: ``You really need someone to get in there and work on your head.''
But Radmanovic was his usual madcap self after the game, joking that he and Jackson had done their own pregame version of ``Anger Management,'' referencing the film starring Lakers fan Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. Whatever the cause, the results showed up in his best game of the season.
Lamar Odom, who's 19-of-22 in his last two games, had 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists as the Lakers snapped their longtime rivals' four-game winning streak with an outstanding second half, with Bryant scoring 14 points and hitting three 3-pointers in the first 6:02 after halftime. Los Angeles has won four straight in Sacramento.
Although the Lakers still trail New Orleans by 1 1/2 games for the Western Conference lead, the win pushed Los Angeles (53-24) - which has the same record as San Antonio - two games ahead of Phoenix (51-26) in the Pacific standings with five games to play. The Lakers have 18 division titles, but none since 2004, Shaquille O'Neal's last season with the club.
``I'll watch a little bit, mostly out of curiosity,'' Bryant said of the extent of his scoreboard-watching. ``We want to be No. 1 just for the sake of being No. 1, but it ultimately doesn't matter because wherever you finish in the West, you're going to have a tough matchup.''
Kevin Martin scored 22 points for the Kings, who simply seemed exhausted after winning at Denver one night earlier.
``We ran out of gas,'' Martin said. ``They came in here with some rested legs. We played a hard-fought game last night with only seven or eight players. You can't always say that's an excuse, but you can just tell we ran out of gas.''
Bryant drew cheers from the thousands of Lakers fans who infiltrated Arco Arena to start ``MVP!'' chants during the third-quarter run. Radmanovic added eight points in the third, including two 3-pointers.
After Sacramento's reserves cut the lead to 12 points, Bryant hit one last 3-pointer with 2:45 to play, putting the Lakers up 110-88 - and Kobe then waved goodbye to the Sacramento crowd as he ran back downcourt.
``The best player in the league came out and just took over,'' Martin said. ``He got his team going.''
The Kings were brought down off their high from upsetting the Nuggets on Saturday night despite playing without injured starters Ron Artest, Brad Miller and Beno Udrih. Artest returned but struggled to 19 points on 7-of-20 shooting against the Lakers, while Miller missed his second straight game with a lower leg strain.
``Fatigue is not a factor in the NBA,'' Artest claimed. ``The (second unit) played great. It was good for their confidence. They will be that much more experienced and ready.''
Notes: Barry Bonds sat courtside with Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof, waving his black baseball cap to the crowd during the first timeout, and he waved again to another ovation as he left early in the fourth quarter. ``I love Barry Bonds,'' Artest said. ... Martin made his 482nd free throw of the season late in the third quarter, breaking his own Sacramento record for free throws made. ... Walton injured his hamstring against the Trail Blazers last week. He hopes to play at Portland on Tuesday.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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