Kings Top Lakers For 13th Straight at Home
Sacramento 114, L.A. Lakers 98
SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 14 (Ticker) -- With a little late defense, the Sacramento Kings continued their climb through the Western Conference standings.
Mike Bibby scored 29 points to lead a balanced attack and the Kings clamped down in the fourth quarter of a 114-98 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, their 13th straight home victory.
Sacramento passed New Orleans/Oklahoma City for eighth place after Sunday's win over Dallas and hurdled Los Angeles (33-32) for seventh with Tuesday's triumph.
"It felt real good," said Bibby, fresh off NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors. "We moved into seventh place, we keep trying to move our way up."
"There's nobody we can't go out and compete against, but (this is) such a new group," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "These guys have done an unbelievable job of coming together as a team and getting better."
Not known for their defense, the Kings held an 83-78 lead entering the fourth quarter, when they limited the Lakers to 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting and forced seven turnovers. Sacramento also prevented a late explosion by superstar Kobe Bryant.
The improved defense has been sparked by Artest, the 2004 Defensive Player of the Year who was acquired from Indiana in late January.
"You've got to take your hat off to Ron because he played about 45 minutes just chasing Kobe around and making it tough on him," Kings swingman Bonzi Wells said. "Ron has just turned our team around and has everybody playing on another level, especially on the defensive end."
The Kings are 10-0 at Arco Arena since Artest arrived and have yet to allow 100 points, holding opponents to just 87 points per game.
"You add (Artest) in the mix, (he) is everything Sacramento wasn't when we played them in the playoffs," Bryant said. "He's a guy who thinks defense first. Now Sacramento starts to become a more aggressive defensive team. He's doing a great job. He's committed to playing defense for 48 minutes."
A three-point play by Lamar Odom pulled the Lakers within 92-87. Bibby made two free throws and Wells stole a pass by Bryant, then drew a foul from the superstar on a driving layup. His free throw made it 97-87 with 6:07 to go.
"We understand they're going to start with Kobe, and Lamar Odom had a good game, too," Wells said. "We wanted to just keep those guys in check in the fourth, don't let them win the game and make them shoot over us and not just drive past us."
Bryant answered with a 3-pointer before the Kings sealed matters with a 9-0 spurt. Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Artest made jumpers, Artest made a steal to set up Bibby's 3-pointer, and Bibby sank two free throws for a 106-90 bulge with 3:28 left.
Brad Miller had 18 points and 11 rebounds, Kenny Thomas scored 14 points and Kevin Martin 12 for the Kings, who shot 54 percent (39-of-72) from the field, including 10-of-19 from the arc. Bibby sank five 3-pointers and Artest four.
Sacramento also took advantage of its free throws, making 26-of-28.
Bryant scored 30 points but needed 28 shots, adding seven rebounds and seven assists. Odom added 24 and seven assists for the Lakers, who shot 46 percent (38-of-82) and made 11-of-21 3-pointers.
"Kobe had 30 but he missed 16 shots," Artest said. "He shot under 50 percent, which I was happy about. I blocked a lot of his shots. He (made) a couple shots when the game was over."
Artest scored 13 of his 17 second-quarter points during an opening 17-2 blitz that put the Kings ahead, 41-33, and Sacramento never trailed thereafter.
"It was a big win for us," Artest said. "We stayed together. We moved to the seventh spot now, which was definitely important to us. I just tried to carry us a little bit until everybody started clicking, and they did."
Los Angeles remained one game ahead of New Orleans/Oklahoma City (31-32) in the race for the final playoff spot in the West. The Lakers have not missed the postseason in consecutive years since 1975-76.
"They got up nine points in the third quarter and the crowd got into it," Odom said. "They just went on a run we couldn't stop. Nothing's slipping away. We didn't fall down to 10th."
Odom scored 14 points in the first quarter as the Lakers grabbed a 31-24 lead. The Kings stormed back to grab a 54-50 halftime advantage and opened a 10-point lead late in the third quarter.
"It was (Artest's) game tonight," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He carried that game in the first half."