When they did, the Kings rarely handled the Lakers as easily as they did on Sunday.
Five days after their rout in Sacramento, the Kings seek another victory in Los Angeles when the teams meet for the final time this season.
Sacramento and Los Angeles developed one of the NBA’s strongest rivalries while the Lakers were eliminating the Kings from three straight postseasons from 2000-02. But with Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Webber and Doug Christie all being traded to Eastern Conference teams in the last year, and Vlade Divac switching sides in the rivalry, there are few remaining links to that era.
“It’s completely different now,” Bryant said. “Now you have Kenny Thomas and Brian Skinner out there playing. The only ones that are there from the rivalry days are Mike Bibby and Peja (Stojakovic). You’re talking about Christie, Chris … and Vlade plays for us now. It’s not much of a rivalry.”
Nor was it much of a contest on Sunday. Thomas scored a career-high 32 points and six other Kings were in double figures in a 124-105 victory.
Thomas also grabbed 14 rebounds, helping Sacramento to a commanding 62-32 advantage on the boards.
“That was crazy. 62 to 30-something? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before,” Thomas said. “They’re pretty small, so me, Brian, and Darius (Songaila) were just trying to rebound the ball.”
The Kings have been off since that victory, and hope their offense hasn’t cooled off with the layoff. Sacramento has won four of five, scoring 119 or more points in each victory.
Sacramento has four games left, including two against Phoenix, which has the league’s best record. The Kings, who need to win twice for a 50-win season, are trying to hold off Houston and Denver for fifth place in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles has nothing to play for, and it shows. The Lakers have lost two straight and 15 of 17, and their lack of motivation may have been a factor in Sunday’s loss.
“They just whipped us really badly on the boards,” Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said. “They’re going somewhere and we aren’t. It’s not an excuse but it happens that way a lot.”
Los Angeles followed that loss by losing 108-97 to Phoenix on Monday. The Lakers have surrendered 111.2 points per game in their last six contests.