Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Wednesday evening road contest at Sacramento, the Lakers looking to secure the West’s No. 2 seed with a win, along with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Fisher, Bryant, Artest, Odom* and Gasol
Kings: T. Evans, M. Thornton, F. Garcia, S. Dalembert, D. Cousins
*Odom was starting for Andrew Bynum, who suffered a hyperextended knee/bone bruise in the second quarter of L.A.’s Tuesday win over San Antonio. The good news was L.A.’s 7-foot center was expected to be ready for the playoffs, avoiding more serious damage.
6:11 L.A. hit 6-of-11 shots as all but Ron Artest scored in the first six minutes, but the D wasn’t as good, the Kings getting some good looks inside and out in the absence of Bynum. Nonetheless, it was a focused effort from the Lakers, who knew it needed to win to secure home court advantage over the Mavericks in Round 1. Dallas had beaten New Orleans earlier, meaning a win would bring either the Hornets or Memphis (if the Grizz beat the Clippers) to STAPLES Center this weekend.
1:48 Two free throws from Odom got him to seven points, matching Bryant’s early output and putting L.A. up 27-23. Before the game, Odom said that Bynum’s injury scare made him re-focus a bit, made him take a step back and value the time he’d spent on the court. It’s the kind of thing, he said, that could help him and his teammates mentally heading into the playoffs.
0:00 Bryant couldn’t get a last-second shot off through a triple team in transition, but the Lakers finished the quarter off well, opening a 31-26 lead by getting at least four points from all five starters. Bryant’s nine points led, the way, while Gasol added six points, four boards and two assists.
12:00 With Steve Blake out with the chicken pox and Matt Barnes back in L.A. working on his sore knee, in came D-League call up Trey Johnson, who hadn’t been with the Lakers since the preseason. In the next few minutes, Johnson would team with Brown, Walton, Artest and Gasol to push L.A.’s lead to 10 at 40-30, when “pushing the lead” hadn’t been a common phrase associated with the bench in a while.
5:36 The terrific stretch from a group that hadn’t played together once, even in practice, continued as Johnson hit his first two jumpers as a Laker, Gasol converted a few tough drives and Walton tossed an alley-oop for Brown that put L.A. up 48-34. When Sacramento scored four straight out of a time out, however, Phil Jackson looked over his right shoulder and said: “Kobe.” No. 24 to the scorer’s table.
0:38.1 The Kings went on an 8-0 run as Jackson tried to get Gasol his first rest of the game, cutting L.A.’s 16-point lead in half. Evans then matched Bryant’s jumper, the Lakers having to settle for a 56-48 lead at the break. L.A. shot 51.2 percent from the field and made all 12 of its free throws, notching 13 assists on 21 field goals, Gasol and Bryant combining for 24 points and nine boards.
9:39 Back to business for L.A. out of the break, with Fisher’s reverse layup opening a 13-point lead at 63-50. Fisher and Artest both had eight points, looking to join Bryant (13), Odom and Gasol (11 each) in double figures.
6:43 Sometimes one wonders if teams watch tape on Fisher … apparently Tyreke Evans does not, as he ran the obviously-looking-to-set-up-for-a-charge Fisher over on a 3-on-1 break. How many times have we seen Fisher quell an odd-man break with a drawn charge this season alone? Alas, it was an important play at that juncture, the KIngs having crept within seven points once again.
2:28 Not one, or two, but three head fakes later, Bryant snuck the ball around three Kings bigs to put L.A. up 80-66. He’d been terrific all evening, converting 9-of-13 field goals (69 percent) for his 23 points. Fellow stars Gasol (16 points, nine boards, four assists) and Odom (15 points, five boards, five assists) had been similarly effective, with a first round matchup with New Orleans (Memphis was getting destroyed by the Clippers) looking ever more likely.
9:44 With a comfortable lead, Gasol, Fisher, Bryant and Artest watched from the bench as Odom’s short hook in the lane made it 93-71.
7:41 Or not? The Kings rolled off 10 straight points, and two came off L.A.’s total as Joe Smith’s buzzer beater was discounted, the Lakers suddenly down to 10 at 91-81. Gasol had already returned to the game, but perhaps we hadn’t seen the last of Bryant, either.
2:32 Despite L.A.’s whole starting line up returning, the Kings were flying right past ‘em, rolling off another 8-0 run to cut the lead to just two at 95-93. The Lakers looked exhausted, with Gasol and Odom in particular dragging up and down the floor on their final back-to-back of the regular season. In Bynum’s absence, both played big minutes to beat the Spurs on Tuesday, and were up to 40 and 37, respectively, in this one.
0:09.6 Uh, wow. The entirely improbable run for Sacramento, perhaps playing in their last game ever in the state’s capitol, continued as a Thompson dunk made it 97-95. L.A. got one point back on a defensive three seconds free throw, but Bryant missed a fifth straight field goal with 15 seconds left, forcing L.A. to tie. Udrih made both free throws, putting the Kings up three.
0:04.6 Uh, (much bigger) wow. Bryant, who’d made only 1-of-6 shots in the fourth, pulled up and drained a game-tying three. How ’bout that for some drama? Then, after a time out, the Kings looking for a buzzer-beater, Bryant swatted Thornton’s game-winning attempt, bringing us to overtime.
2:45 A pretty pass from Bryant, who’d attracted three defenders, got Odom a dunk and L.A. a three-point lead. He’d then pull up for a ridiculous jumper with Thornton in his face, which the refs reviewed before calling it a two.
0:47.5 Well, that should do it. An and-1 layup in transition from Odom made it a 111-103 lead. L.A.’s D, after going away almost completely in the fourth quarter, returned in force as Sacramento struggled to get good looks. The final: 116-108. Your numbers from a fantastic finish to a terrific NBA season:
2 L.A.’s seed for the playoffs, thanks to their two straight wins to end the season, pitting them against the New Orleans Hornets in Round 1 and ensuring home court advantage in a potential second-round meeting with No. 3 seed Dallas.
7 Turnovers for the Lakers in the fourth quarter after just five in the previous three, their legs starting to fatigue as Sacramento mounted a furious comeback.
13 Rebounds for Pau Gasol, who tired late while playing over 40 minutes for the second consecutive night in the absence of Andrew Bynum. He added 18 points and six assists, while Lamar Odom pitched in 22 points, eight boards and seven assists.
18 More points for the Kings than the Lakers in the fourth quarter, a 29-11 margin that turned a blowout into overtime.
36 Points for Kobe Bryant, who made 10 of his first 14 shots, then missed all but one of six before dropping the game-tying three-pointer with four seconds left. He’d add five points in OT, plus nine boards and six assists.