Lakers 115, Kings 91
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Kobe Bryant awoke at 4 o’clock in the morning to begin a long day.
He wound up making it a long night for the Sacramento Kings.
After flying to and from Colorado and spending several hours in an Eagle County courtroom, Bryant had 36 points, six rebounds and six assists to lead the Los Angeles Lakers past the Kings 115-91 Wednesday night.
Shaquille O’Neal had 17 points, 16 rebounds and six assists as the Lakers turned what was billed as a Western Conference showdown into a blowout.
“We came out with a tremendous amount of energy,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Kobe jumped out to a really quick start and got it going.
“You can’t underestimate the intensity of this ballclub and their intention to play up to a certain level.”
The Lakers used a 25-1 first-quarter run to take command, and a 17-1 third-quarter spurt to put Sacramento away in handing the Kings their most lopsided loss of the season.
“Basketball is just like a getaway—it’s been that way for me since I was 3,” Bryant said. “I feel OK right now. I have to get up at 3 tomorrow. I’ll get some pretty good sleep on the plane.”
Bryant arrived at Staples Center an hour before tipoff after attending a pretrial hearing on his sexual assault charge. He will return to Colorado on Thursday for another appearance.
“To come back with a game like this says a lot about him,” teammate Karl Malone said. “I don’t know if a lot of guys could deal with that. This is his sanctuary, right here.”
Kings star Chris Webber sounded like he expected Bryant to have a big game.
“Some players live for it, and he’s one of those players,” Webber said. “That team wouldn’t be the team that it is without him. Believe that.”
The Lakers (48-23) have won six straight games and 10 of 12 to move within 2 1/2 games of the conference-leading Kings (51-21), who lost for the fifth time in eight games.
The Lakers also moved within a half-game of Minnesota (49-23), and can overtake the Timberwolves when the teams meet Friday night.
The Lakers had beaten their previous five opponents by a total of 20 points, and all but one of those wins came over teams who won’t make the playoffs.
They were much, much better in this game, shooting 51.6 percent to Sacramento’s 41 percent and outrebounding the Kings 55-33.
“Tonight was the best game of the year for us,” O’Neal said. “We’re right where we want to be.”
Gary Payton scored 20 points, Slava Medvedenko came off the bench to get 15 points and eight rebounds, and Malone added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers.
Peja Stojakovic had 20 points and eight rebounds and Webber added 18 points for the Kings.
Mike Bibby, who scored 31 points in a 103-101 victory over the Lakers last month, had 12 points and six assists. He shot 4-of-16.
“You’re not going to throw the season away because of one game,” Stojakovic said. “It looked like they wanted this game more than we did.”
Bryant made a 12-foot left-handed bank shot leading to a three-point play during the third-quarter run that extended the Lakers’ lead to 86-56.
By that time, the Lakers’ big four of Bryant, O’Neal, Malone and Payton, playing together for just the 28th time this season, had reached double figures, as had Medvedenko.
Stojakovic made a 3-pointer to trigger a 14-0 run by the Kings to make it 86-70, but that was as close as they would get. It was 94-72 entering the fourth quarter.
Bryant and Medvedenko scored six points each during the Lakers’ early spurt, which gave them a 31-10 lead. The Kings missed 13 straight shots and three free throws during the run.
It was 33-14 entering the second quarter and 65-47 at halftime.
The Lakers play eight of their remaining 11 games at home. One of the road games is at Sacramento on April 11. … Six of the Kings’ 10 games are on the road. … The Kings are 2-1 and the Timberwolves 3-0 against the Lakers. … Kings guard Bobby Jackson, sidelined five weeks with an abdominal strain, hopes to be playing in the next week or so. “It’s driving me nuts,” he said of watching from the bench. “(But) I don’t want to make it worse.” … After being asked about the $25,000 fine levied against Houston’s Steve Francis for cursing during a halftime interview Sunday on national television, O’Neal took time to write a note for the benefit of reporters to NBA vice president Stu Jackson, who suspended O’Neal one game without pay for cursing on local television after a game in Toronto Feb. 1. “Jackson is running the NBA rules committee the same way he ran the Knicks and the Grizzlies—inconsistent. I said twice as many bad words and I got fined 11 times more,” the note read, inpart.