Bryant, Lakers overcome pesky KingsApr 7, 2008 - 5:19 AM By Tom Galland PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- The Sacramento Kings have enjoyed playing the spoiler role in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race this week. The Los Angeles Lakers made sure they would not be the next victim.
Kobe Bryant poured in 29 points as the Lakers dominated the second half, cruising past the Kings, 114-92, at Arco Arena on Sunday night.
Vladimir Radmanovic added 21 points and tied a career high with 14 rebounds for Los Angeles, which won its fourth consecutive game on the road by shooting 12-of-22 from the arc.
"Tonight, I just kind of told (Radmanovic) we'd like (him) to be a little more consistent," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "Luke (Walton) is going to be out of the ballgame, we'd like to have an effort from you tonight that's a good effort. I didn't say it quite like that, it was a little more ... pungent."
Whatever was said, it worked.
"I just got (the) ball in my hands on rebounds and somehow I made my shots," said Radmanovic, who was just 2-for-8 Friday against Dallas. "(Coach Jackson and I) are working on our anger management. We worked on it today for five minutes. You saw (the result)."
Sacramento had stunned the Denver Nuggets on the road Saturday and dealt a blow to the Houston Rockets four days earlier in a nail-biter at Arco.
The win gave Lakers (53-24) some retribution for a 114-113 loss to Sacramento at the Staples Center on March 9 - keeping them 1 1/2 games back of the conference-leading New Orleans Hornets (54-22).
"We definitely wanted to come in here and have a good game like today, especially with the way they beat us at home and celebrated on our home court," Bryant said. "We wanted to come out and send a message."
Bryant scored 12 points - nailing three from the arc - in the first first five minutes of the third to key a 23-9 burst that gave Los Angeles a 74-54 lead.
The advantage extended to 23 after Sasha Vujacic buried a 3-pointer less than three minutes into the fourth. But Sacramento showed some life with a 13-2 stretch to close within 12 midway through the quarter.
Bryant squelched the comeback attempt with seven points, including his fourth 3-pointer of the night, in the next four minutes to make it 110-88 as Los Angeles pulled away.
"We're a group of guys (who) know how to play this game," said center Pau Gasol, who chipped in with 20 points and nine rebounds. "We have experience, we're unselfish, (and) we just want to win. We're going to do whatever it takes to win and we have a lot of weapons out there."
"Every game is an opportunity for us to get better," said Bryant, who connected on 9-of-15 shots from the floor. "It really doesn't matter where you finish. We want to finish No. 1 just for the sake of being No. 1. But in the Western Conference, it doesn't matter where you end up, you're going to have a tough matchup."
Kevin Martin scored 22 points in 31 minutes for Sacramento.
"We ran out of gas," Martin said. "(Los Angeles) came in here with some rested legs. We played a hard-fought game (Saturday night) with only seven or eight players. (We) can't always say that as an excuse, but you can just tell we ran out of gas tonight."
The loss ended a season-high, four-game winning streak for the Kings.
Sacramento pulled out to a 27-18 lead late in the first quarter on Francisco Garcia's jumper. From there, Los Angeles began to methodically take control of the game.
Radmanovic nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close the first, helping ignite a 14-1 Lakers' run. The 6-10 Serbian struck from long range again with 2:17 to go in the second, giving Los Angeles its largest lead of the half, 49-39.
A brief Sacramento rally cut into the lead and the Lakers took a 51-45 lead into intermission.
LA LAKERS 114
SACRAMENTO 92 FINAL
Apr 6 11:28 PM
LA LAKERS 87
SACRAMENTO 69 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 6 10:58 PM
LA LAKERS 51
SACRAMENTO 45 HALFTIME
Apr 6 10:17 PM
LA LAKERS 23
SACRAMENTO 27 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 6 9:38 PM
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