Following a lengthy losing streak, the Los Angeles Lakers appear to have gotten back on track.
The Lakers look to win a fourth straight game for the first time in nearly two months when they host the Sacramento Kings on Friday.
Since dropping six straight from Feb. 8-21—the longest slide of Phil Jackson’s 16-year coaching career—Los Angeles has won its last three games by an average of 17.0 points. The team has not won four in a row since Dec. 31-Jan. 7.
“We’re getting there,” Kobe Bryant said.
The Lakers further built their confidence with an impressive road win in their last game, beating the team that owns the league’s fourth-best record overall and second-best at home.
Los Angeles hasn’t played since that 102-94 victory over Utah on Monday, and the rest should help Bryant.
The MVP of last month’s All-Star game missed the shootaround on Monday, spending most of the day sick in bed, but managed to score a game-high 35 points against the Jazz.
Bryant’s back tightened up throughout the game, and he hit just 7-of-21 from the field, but made 21-of-24 free throws, including a franchise-record 14 in the second quarter.
“We’re starting to find some consistency in our offense and getting other people involved,” Jackson said.
While the Lakers are getting more production from some role players, the key to their offense is the play of Bryant, who is averaging 33.0 points in his last three games. He averaged 28.2 points during the losing skid.
Bryant narrowly missed a triple-double in the Lakers’ only game against the Kings this season, a 132-128 overtime victory on Jan. 4, as he finished with 42 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
The nine-time All-Star has scored at least 30 points in four of five games against Sacramento since the start of last season, averaging 37.4 points and shooting 48.6 percent (17-of-35) from 3-point range.
Los Angeles has won two straight home games over the Kings, but has lost five of six overall at Staples Center after starting the season 19-4 at home.
Sacramento, meanwhile, has lost five of its last six road games, and is just 8-20 away from Arco Arena this season.
The Kings are coming off their best offensive performance of the season, though, setting season highs in field-goal shooting (62.7 percent) and points scored in a 135-120 victory over Charlotte on Wednesday.
“Mike Bibby got hot and we looked pretty good,” coach Eric Musselman said. “When Kevin Martin is doing what he’s doing and Mike’s doing what he’s doing offensively, we’re a pretty good basketball team.”
Bibby scored a season-high 38 points in the first meeting with the Lakers, and in five games against them since the start of last season, he’s averaged 28.4 points—his best against any opponent in that span.
Martin is averaging 31.3 points, 10.2 points better than his season average, over his last three games. He scored 21 points against Los Angeles in January.
The Kings and Lakers face each other twice more this season, including each team’s regular-season finale on April 18.