The Lakers may have similar feelings after Thursday’s game.
On Jan. 16, Los Angeles was without Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Horace Grant and Rick Fox, leaving Gary Payton and a supporting cast of reserves to endure a 103-83 drubbing in Sacramento. The game clearly lacked the usual intensity present when these Western Conference powers meet.
“They didn’t have their big guns, so we just did what we had to do: jump on them,” said Miller, who had nine points, 14 rebounds and five assists in his introduction to the heated rivalry.
Webber still has three games to serve on his league-imposed eight-game suspension. Miller has begun working out with the team, but has sat out five games since spraining his ankle during the All-Star game. Jackson will not begin to work out until next week at the earliest due to an abdominal strain.
The Kings didn’t slow down much without their three stars Monday, using a late surge to put away the New York Knicks 107-99. Mike Bibby scored 28 points and Darius Songaila, filling in for Miller, added career highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds as Sacramento posted its seventh victory in eight games.
“If he can do that for us, we don’t miss the guys who are out as much,” Kings All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic said of Songaila. “He was all over the court tonight, on offense and defense. He played hard, and everybody else played harder (because of it).”
The Lakers have won five in a row since the All-Star break, including Wednesday’s come-from-behind 112-111 victory in Denver. Bryant scored 35 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but it was reserve Kareem Rush’s 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds left that won it for Los Angeles.
O’Neal had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Lakers, who have not won six in a row since a season-high 10-game run from Nov. 19-Dec. 9.
Bryant’s performance came after he was named Western Conference player of the week for averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals in Los Angeles’ previous four wins.
The Lakers have won eight of their last 11 on the road.