Bryant stars in Lakers' landmark win over Kings

Friday, December 17th 2004, 6:32 am
By: News On 6

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Kobe Bryant discussed it with assistant coach Frank Hamblen in the closing minutes. Not even the two longest-tenured people on the Lakers' bench could remember ever beating the Sacramento Kings with such force and flair.

Bryant had 31 points and 12 assists, Lamar Odom scored 22 points and Los Angeles added more fuel to its biggest rivalry by handing Sacramento its worst home loss in nearly seven years, 115-99 on Thursday night.

Brian Cook hit four of the Lakers' 12 3-pointers in a building where Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal enjoyed some of their greatest playoff triumphs during the last six seasons. With Shaq long gone to Miami, the Lakers still handed Sacramento its worst loss at Arco Arena since a 116-95 defeat to San Antonio on March 2, 1998.

The Lakers ran away in the second half, outscoring Sacramento 37-22 in the third quarter with 16 points from Bryant. They kept up their up-tempo assault until the final minutes, when Kings coach Rick Adelman furiously pulled his starters with nearly 5 minutes left.

``We really just jumped on them,'' Bryant said. ``It's big. We have yet to beat such a top opponent like Sacramento. We've been in position to win these types of ballgames, and we just haven't closed them out. This is a good step for us.''

In the only other NBA games Thursday night, Detroit beat Cleveland 81-69 and Chicago defeated Milwaukee 85-77.

Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson scored 20 points apiece for the Kings, whose starters left the game in embarrassed indignation. It was just Sacramento's third loss in 17 games _ but few defeats in recent years have stung more.

``We weren't doing anything that was going to get us into the game,'' Adelman said. ``They're a team that gives us problems because of matchups, but they're not that good. This was hopefully a wakeup call, because they handled us.''

Sacramento's deficiencies in defensive tenacity and offensive patience were exposed in just its second home loss of the season. Brad Miller managed just six points in 38 minutes, and Peja Stojakovic was ineffective despite getting 16 points.

``It was a great team win, probably a milestone for us,'' Lakers coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. ``Now we've got something we talk about _ winning on the road _ and we have something to look back on.''

From the cultural poles of California, Los Angeles and Sacramento battled atop the Pacific Division standings for the better part of a decade, trading verbal jabs and actual punches along with baskets in countless memorable games and playoff series.

But after the Lakers were rebuilt in the offseason to defuse the growing feud between Shaq and Kobe, Webber pronounced one of the NBA's better rivalries dead _ even though Vlade Divac, perhaps the most beloved player in Sacramento's renaissance, defected back to Los Angeles for a $4.9 million contract.

Webber's prediction seems a bit premature. Sacramento pulled out an entertaining 109-106 victory at Staples Center last month _ and in the rematch, the Lakers handed the Kings their most humbling home defeat during Adelman's seven seasons.

Webber refused to speak to reporters in the Kings' locker room, but crossed the arena to visit the Lakers' locker room.

``(Odom) and I had a pretty good game,'' Webber said. ``We just didn't play a good team game.''

Bryant was greeted with his usual showers of boos, and the Kings went after him with double-teams. He still showed brilliance: a two-handed reverse dunk, an awkward scoop shot while being fouled and a four-point play in the third quarter, hitting a 3-pointer while Doug Christie clipped his elbow.

The Lakers exploited the biggest flaws in the Kings' defense: poor rotation to open shooters and an utter inability to stop dribble penetration. Odom blew by Webber atop the key on several possessions, while Tierre Brown, Chucky Atkins and the rest of the Lakers' guards drove the lane almost at will. Brown scored 13 points in the fourth.

Pistons 81, Cavaliers 69

At Auburn Hills, Mich., Richard Hamilton scored 21 points, and the Pistons held LeBron James to two points in the second half.

James finished with a season-low 11 points on 4-of-21 shooting. He had a career-high 43 points against the Pistons late last month in Cleveland.

Chauncey Billups added 16 points for Detroit.

Bulls 85, Bucks 77

At Chicago, Kirk Hinrich scored 28 points, and Eddy Curry added 18 to help the Bulls win consecutive games for the first time this season.

Michael Redd led Milwaukee with 22 points. The Bucks are 1-9 on the road.