- Dave McMenamin, ESPN Staff Writer
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Here's a capsule-sized look at how the Los Angeles Lakers salvaged a 2-2 road trip with a rousing, come-from-behind win, beating the Sacramento Kings 103-98 on Saturday night at the Sleep Train Arena:
How it happened: Things looked pretty grim to start as L.A. trailed by 12 after the first 12 minutes and gave up a whopping 37 points in the first period. Making matters worse, Steve Nash could play just two minutes before ending his night because of a right hip strain. But the Lakers persevered. Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 19 points in the second quarter to get L.A. back in it before halftime, and the Lakers used a 14-1 run to end the third to put control of the game in their hands. It got tight late in the fourth quarter, but L.A. was able to strip Tyreke Evans to break up a layup attempt, Dwight Howard blocked a potential game-tying 3 from DeMarcus Cousins (yes, you read that right) and the Lakers survived.
What it means: There's life in these Lakers yet. Coach Mike D'Antoni said at shootaround Saturday that his team's goal was to finish the season 9-0, hoping Utah would falter somewhere along the way and the Lakers would be able to vault back into a playoff spot. There's plenty more work to be done to get eight more wins, but if L.A. plays with the same sense of team effort it did from the second quarter on, the Lakers will have a shot to do it.
Hits: Bryant passed Wilt Chamberlain to move into fourth on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan are ahead of him now. Pretty incredible company he keeps.
Bryant just missed a triple-double, with 19 points, 14 assists (one shy of his career high) and nine rebounds.
Howard was dominant, shooting 10-for-14 for 24 points and adding 15 rebounds.
Steve Blake filled in for Nash to score 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
Pau Gasol had 10 assists along with 12 points.
Misses: Free throws were a sore spot again, with Bryant missing a technical free throw early and going 1-of-2 from the line with less than 30 seconds to go, putting L.A. up by just three instead of four. Howard shot just 4-for-10 from the stripe.
For the game, Bryant played all but the final 23 seconds of the third quarter, 47:37 overall. You could say he's leaving it all out there, or you could say D'Antoni needs to be more disciplined in resting him. Bryant shot just 5-for-18 on those tired legs, which are still playing through a bone spur in his left foot.
Stat of the game: After coughing up 39 turnovers combined in their previous two games, the Lakers had just seven miscues Saturday ... and only four over the last three quarters after having three in the first period.
What's next: On Tuesday, the Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks, a team that is closing in on them fast. The Mavs have won 11 of their 16 games in March, including an impressive victory against Chicago on Saturday. Tuesday also is Shaquille O'Neal's jersey retirement ceremony at Staples Center.
7hAmin Elhassan and Baxter Holmes