LAL 103, Kings 98: March 30 Running Diary

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento KingsBelow is a running diary of L.A.’s Saturday evening road contest against Sacramento, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:

Starters
Lakers: Nash, Meeks, Bryant, Gasol and Howard
Kings: I. Thomas, T. Evans, J. Salmons, J. Thompson, D. Cousins

FIRST QUARTER
4:10 Sacramento showed why it leads the NBA in scoring since the All-Star break, reaching 30 points with four minutes yet to play. The Lakers were hanging, scoring 25 themselves, but the pace of the game was too fast for them to sustain. To make matters worse, Steve Nash lasted only a couple of minutes before leaving the game with a right hamstring strain.

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings0:00 The Kings didn’t stop scoring, but L.A. did, so a 37-25 lead for the home team had the Lakers in trouble yet again, amidst four losses in the last five games. They allowed 71.4 percent shooting to the Kings, including 4 of 5 triples.

SECOND QUARTER
3:00 But behind Kobe Bryant, it was a different story in the second quarter. Yet to take a rest despite a sore left foot and ankle, Kobe pushed L.A. to a 23-11 start to the quarter, the Kings suddenly struggling to score as L.A. slowed the tempo (no turnovers in the period) and executed inside and out. We were tied at 48, L.A. having trailed by 12 after 1.

And oh, by the way, Kobe became the fourth greatest scorer in NBA history early in the period, hitting a jumper in the paint to pass Wilt Chamberlain. More on that after the game.

0:00 After a terrific second quarter, the Lakers didn’t need Isaiah Thomas to nail a buzzer-beating three, but he did, allowing Sacramento a 57-53 lead. L.A. had been within a single point moments earlier after two Bryant free throws with four seconds left. They allowed only 20 points in the period, after the 37 in the first quarter, at least getting themselves back in it. Bryant played all 24 first half minutes.

THIRD QUARTER
7:10 Continuing his stretch of improved play in the past three contests, Pau Gasol was up to eight assists after finding Bryant for a jumper. Kobe had eight dimes of his own, and had the Lakers within a point, before consecutive Kings buckets pushed their lead to 70-65.

Los Angeles Lakers v Sacramento Kings0:00 Riding some terrific defense, L.A. closed the quarter on a 14-1 run, and 11-0, to take an 82-75 lead out of the period. What a comeback, having allowed 37 points in the first quarter, but only 20 in the second and 18 in the third. In fact, Sacramento managed 15 combined field goals in the second and third after 15 in the first. Kobe sat for only the last 20 seconds, a defensive possession that resulted in another stop, and was up to 16 points with his 11 assists and six boards.

FOURTH QUARTER
8:01 Blake had four triples in this one, and Jodie Meeks had three after draining one off Kobe’s 12th assist, to keep the Lakers up six four minutes into the final period. Marcus Thornton was really hurting L.A., however, having scored 12 of his 18 in only four minutes.

4:50 The 13th Bryant helper got Gasol a dunk, the Spaniard getting all the way to the rim as a trailer in transition, keeping L.A.’s lead at five in crunch time. He had 10 assists of his own, many getting Howard shots at the rim.

0:00 In crunch time, L.A. got it done at the foul line and on defense, getting the key stops they needed with Bryant converting foul shots at the other end for what ended up being a 103-98 victory. Playing all but 23 seconds, Kobe finished with 19 points, 14 assists and nine rebounds on the evening. He had a lot of help, Dwight Howard going for 24 points (10 of 14 field goals) with 15 boards and five blocks, while Gasol added 12 points and 10 assists, stepping up his playmaking in the absence of Nash. Up next is a big home game against Dallas on Tuesday. See you there.