Los Angeles Lakers fans weren’t too happy with the officiating in the team’s last game, and the Lakers’ performance left plenty to be desired as well.
Fortunately for the Lakers, their next game is in Northern California against a Sacramento Kings team they’ve handled on the road over the previous three seasons.
Artest tripped over a box and fell down a flight of stairs at his home Christmas night. He was treated at UCLA Medical Center, undergoing a CT scan and receiving stitches in the back of his head and his elbow, and is expected to be examined by a neurologist.
The veteran forward is expected to be examined by a neurologist, possibly shedding some light on how long Artest will be sidelined. He didn’t travel with the team to Sacramento.
Artest fouled out Friday in a game which clearly angered many Lakers fans at Staples Center. Los Angeles (23-5) had won 11 in a row at home before falling behind by 20 in the first half against Cleveland. That may have displeased the crowd, but Lamar Odom’s(notes) ejection with 4:04 left and Kobe Bryant(notes) drawing the team’s fifth technical foul elicited a more extreme response in the 102-87 defeat.
After each of those calls during the nationally televised game, fans unleashed a shower of foam fingers, which were given away beforehand. A water bottle also hit the floor following Bryant’s technical.
“I’ve never seen an L.A. crowd react like this before,” coach Phil Jackson said. “I like their enthusiasm. I don’t like their demonstrative manner. … It wasn’t a well-refereed game. It wasn’t a very well-played game, so I think it was a reaction to that.”
Despite a still-bandaged right index finger, Bryant scored 35 points - his fourth time reaching that mark since suffering his injury on Dec. 11 - and added nine rebounds and eight assists.
However, Artest and Pau Gasol(notes) were the only others to reach double figures as the Lakers shot 36.5 percent. They also allowed the Cavaliers to connect at a 54.3 percent clip for their worst defensive performance of the season.
If the last 12 meetings with the Kings are any indication, the Lakers have a good shot to bounce back Saturday. They’ve averaged 117.0 points while posting a 9-3 mark since Jan. 4, 2007.
Los Angeles has also averaged 117.2 points in earning five victories in its past six trips to Arco Arena.
The Kings (13-15) rank fifth in the league with 103.9 points per game and Evans, the fourth pick in June’s draft, accounts for 20.4 per game.
Evans is coming off one of his best performances of the season, scoring 28 on Wednesday night against Cleveland. Despite Evans’ third consecutive 20-point game, the Kings were denied a third straight win in a 117-104 overtime loss.
“We took these guys right down to where we had the last shot in regulation,” coach Paul Westphal said. “If things had gone a little differently we would have big smiles on our faces. I won’t act like there wasn’t a lot of great things that happened.”
Westphal’s team will likely have to slow down the Lakers’ top two scorers, Bryant and Gasol, on Saturday. Bryant has scored at least 20 points in 15 of the last 16 matchups and eight straight in Sacramento. Gasol has reached 20 in his past four contests at Arco Arena.
These teams meet again New Year’s Day in Los Angeles.