Lakers 106, Kings 99
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)
The Los Angeles Lakers have put their three-game hiccup behind them and are closing in on their playoff form.
Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, Pau Gasol added 28 points and 11 rebounds, and the Lakers completed a sweep of their Northern California swing with a 106-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
``We're playing with more of a sense of urgency,'' Bryant said. ``Guys understand that we can be beaten. Once you understand that, you understand that that day can come. Guys have to remained focused.''
After committing 24 turnovers and barely holding on for a 124-121 victory at Golden State on Monday night, the Lakers were much sharper on the back end of their trip. They committed just two turnovers in the first half and 10 for the game, overpowering the Kings inside to win their fourth straight following a season-high, three-game losing streak.
Andrew Bynum added 21 points and 12 rebounds, and the Lakers finished with 60 points in the paint to remain four games ahead of Denver for the best record in the Western Conference. Gasol and Bynum combined to make 21-of-28 shots.
``I think we're tightening it up and playing better defensively,'' Gasol said. ``We know there are only 14 games left in the regular season. It's a good time to step it up and play at our highest level.''
After needing two overtimes to win the first meeting between the teams in December and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Bryant to complete a comeback from 20 points down to win on New Year's Day, the Lakers had a relatively easy time in the third of four meetings this season.
The crowd was energized in just the third sellout of the season. But it wasn't nearly as unfriendly to the Lakers as it was during the cowbell-clanging peak of the rivalry in the early 2000s. There was a sizable contingent of Lakers fans who were almost as loud as the Kings supporters at various points.
``It's a different building,'' Bryant said. ``It's a different building than it was years ago.''
The pro-Lakers contingent took Kings newcomer Carl Landry by surprise.
``I almost thought we were playing in the Staples Center,'' he said. ``I've never seen anything like that before. To see that many Lakers fans out there was kind if disappointing, but at the same time it was motivation for us.''
The Lakers opened a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter on consecutive 3-pointers by Bryant and Lamar Odom. Los Angeles maintained control the rest of the third and took a 77-68 lead into the final quarter when Odom scored on a drive with a second remaining.
The Lakers then scored the first seven points of the fourth, capped by an emphatic dunk by Shannon Brown that made it 84-68. The Kings were never able to make a serious dent in that deficit the rest of the way and fell for the fifth straight time to the Lakers.
Rookie Tyreke Evans had 25 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Kings, narrowly missing his second career triple-double.
``It would have been nice to get it, but it didn't happen,'' Evans said.
After a dazzling spin move by Evans on Ron Artest gave the Kings an early lead, the Lakers ended the first quarter on a 17-4 run to take a 28-17 lead after one. Bryant scored 10 straight points in one stretch, getting inside with ease against the Kings.
But Sacramento got right back into the game with a 16-3 run early in the second quarter and tied it at 33 on a 3-pointer by Omri Casspi. The game remained close from there, with the Lakers taking a 49-48 lead at the half that would have been bigger except Bryant missed three of four free throws in the final minute.
NOTES: Artest played to the crowd in the arena he used to call home. After one basket in the third quarter, he flexed, kissed his biceps and then smiled at the crowd before heading back on defense. ... Evans' only triple double came on March 10 against Toronto. ... The other sellouts in Sacramento were for the home opener against Memphis and the Lakers' first trip into town on Dec. 26. ... The Lakers are 11-6 on the second half of back-to-backs.