A little criticism apparently goes a long way in spurring Lamar Odom.
Odom is averaging 14.2 points - good for second on the Lakers (52-24) - and a team-high 10.6 rebounds, but the versatile 6-foot-10 forward often plays in the shadows of Kobe Bryant on the offensive end. Odom, though, shot 12 of 14 from the field and finished with a season-high 31 points Friday as the Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 112-108 and completed a five-game homestand with three straight victories.
“(Lakers coach Phil Jackson) just told me to take the ball to the hole as much as possible. He was making fun of my jump shot,” Odom said. “I was just trying to be as aggressive as possible and trying to make as many plays as I could.”
The victory also clinched a playoff spot for the Lakers in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, but for Bryant, who added 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, a postseason berth is simply one step along the way to where the club ultimately wants to go.
“It feels good to clinch,” said Bryant, who is averaging 25.7 points in 41 lifetime games against the Kings but has scored 38.2 per game in his last five trips to Sacramento. “Obviously, there’s plenty of work to be done. But that’s the first step.”
Los Angeles, which has not won a division title since 2004, leads the Pacific by one game over Phoenix with six to play.
The Kings (36-40) have been making themselves a nuisance to playoff-contending teams in the West. They have won four straight games, most recently a 118-115 victory at Denver on Saturday in which Kevin Martin scored 36 points after missing the shootaround with the flu.
“Kevin was not healthy,” Kings coach Reggie Theus said. “He played through it. His stomach was hurting. He didn’t even make it to shooting practice. I wasn’t sure I was even going to play him. Kevin said he wanted to play, and you saw the results.”
Francisco Garcia added 29 points off the bench for Sacramento, which is averaging 111.8 points and shooting 49.1 percent during its winning streak. In his third year, Garcia appears to be finding a groove as the Kings’ first option off the bench. He is averaging 18.8 points while shooting 58.7 percent (27-for-46) from the field during the four-game run.
The road team has won the first two games of this season series. Beno Udrih sank two free throws with 4.6 seconds left to give Sacramento a 114-113 win at Los Angeles on March 9 in the most recent meeting. Bryant, who missed a potential game-winning jumper as time expired in that contest, had 34 points and 10 rebounds in a 117-105 Lakers victory at Sacramento on March 4.