7:30 PM ET, December 16, 2004
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Kobe Bryant and the new Lakers had been searching for a signature victory, something to prove their revamped club still can play with the West's powers.
After they were done humiliating the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, nobody could doubt it -- and the Lakers added even more fuel to their biggest rivalry.
Bryant had 31 points and 12 assists, Lamar Odom scored 22 points and Los Angeles handed Sacramento its worst home loss in nearly seven years, 115-99.
Brian Cook hit four of the Lakers' 12 3-pointers in a building where Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal enjoyed some of their greatest playoff triumphs during the last six seasons. With Shaq long gone to Miami, they still handed Sacramento its worst loss at Arco Arena since a 116-95 defeat to San Antonio on March 2, 1998.
In the closing minutes, Bryant leaned down the bench to speak to assistant coach Frank Hamblen -- but neither could remember the last time Los Angeles won so convincingly in Sacramento.
"It's big. We have yet to beat such a top opponent like Sacramento," Bryant said. "We've been in position to win these types of ballgames, and we just haven't closed them out. This is a good step for us."
Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson scored 20 points apiece for the Kings, whose starters spent the final minutes sitting on the bench in embarrassed indignation. It was just Sacramento's third loss in 17 games -- but few defeats in recent years have stung more.
"We weren't doing anything that was going to get us into the game," said coach Rick Adelman, who furiously benched his starters for the final 4:49. "They're a team that gives us problems because of matchups, but they're not that good. This was hopefully a wakeup call, because they handled us."
Sacramento was exposed in just its second home loss of the season, with Los Angeles outscoring the Kings 37-22 in the third quarter. Brad Miller managed just six points in 38 minutes, and Peja Stojakovic was ineffective despite getting 16 points.
"It was a great team win, probably a milestone for us," coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "Now we've got something we talk about -- winning on the road -- and we have something to look back on."
From the cultural poles of California, Los Angeles and Sacramento battled atop the Pacific Division standings for the better part of a decade, trading verbal jabs and actual punches along with baskets in countless memorable games and playoff series.
But after the Lakers were rebuilt in the offseason to defuse the growing feud between Shaq and Kobe, Webber pronounced one of the NBA's better rivalries dead -- even though Vlade Divac, perhaps the most beloved player in Sacramento's renaissance, defected back to Los Angeles for a $4.9 million contract.
Webber's prediction seems a bit premature. Sacramento pulled out an entertaining 109-106 victory at Staples Center last month -- and in the rematch, the Lakers handed the Kings their most humbling home defeat during Adelman's seven seasons.
"They outplayed us. I don't know what else to say," Stojakovic said. "They played much better than we did in every aspect of the game. They outrebounded us, outran us, outscored us. It happens."
Webber refused to speak to reporters in the Kings' locker room, but crossed the arena to visit the Lakers' locker room.
"(Odom) and I had a pretty good game," Webber said. "We just didn't play a good team game."
Bryant was greeted with his usual showers of boos, and the Kings went after him with double-teams. He still showed brilliance: a two-handed reverse dunk, an awkward scoop shot while being fouled and a four-point play in the third quarter, hitting a 3-pointer while Doug Christie clipped his elbow.
Bryant scored 16 points in the third as the Lakers made 68 percent of their shots.
The Lakers exploited the biggest flaws in the Kings' defense: poor rotation to open shooters and an utter inability to stop dribble penetration. Odom blew by Webber atop the key on several possessions, while Tierre Brown, Chucky Atkins and the rest of the Lakers' guards drove the lane almost at will. Brown scored 13 points in the fourth.
Divac has been a disappointment in Los Angeles, struggling with a back injury and playing no significant minutes this season. He got a warm ovation when he entered the game late in the first quarter, but played just three minutes.
"Even though I play for the Lakers, I will always be a part of the Kings," Divac said. "It's fun to be back, and my team won."
The teams don't meet again until April, when they'll face off twice in six days. ... Mike Bibby missed a layup and two wide-open 3-pointers in the opening minutes, but then made five straight shots. ... Bryant has scored at least 30 points against the Kings in seven of their last eight meetings.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||46-83 (.554)||41-90 (.456)|
|3PM-3PA||12-26 (.462)||5-17 (.294)|
|FTM-FTA||11-14 (.786)||12-18 (.667)|
|Fast Break Points||4||9|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||19 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|