Lakers Gameday | 03/21/08 | Lakers 130, Supersonics 105
Kobe, Lakers hand overmatched Sonics 10th straight loss
Kobe Bryant scored 23 points, seven of his teammates also scored in double digits, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat Seattle 130-105 on Friday night, sending the SuperSonics to their 10th straight loss and completing a sweep of the four-game season series.
The Western Conference-leading Lakers returned to Staples Center from an arduous 2-2 road trip that concluded with victories over Dallas and Utah -- who were a combined 58-8 at home before they got there. They never trailed in their sixth straight win over the Sonics, whose 16-53 record is the second-worst in the NBA.
Lakers center Pau Gasol, who sprained his left ankle during the opening game of the trip, missed his fourth straight contest. Friday's signing of 33-year-old forward Ira Newble to a 10-day contract enabled coach Phil Jackson to dress 11 players and fortify a roster further handcuffed by lengthy injuries to Andrew Bynum, Trevor Ariza and Chris Mihm.
Luke Walton scored all of his 17 points in the fourth quarter while Bryant, Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher remained on the bench. All the Lakers' starters scored in double digits, and the team is 14-1 when that happens.
Rookie Kevin Durant had 20 points for the Sonics, a year and three days after his Texas Longhorns were bounced from the NCAA tournament with an 87-68 loss to USC in the East Region. He averaged 19.8 points and shot 38.4 percent (28-for-73) in the four games against the Lakers -- missing 20 of 26 shots against them in an overtime loss on Jan. 14 at Seattle.
This is the first time in the franchise's 41-year history that the Sonics have had two double-digit losing streaks in the same season. They began their first season under coach P.J. Carlesimo with eight straight losses, then dropped club-record 14 in a row from Dec. 31 through Jan. 27.
Seattle would have to win eight of its final 13 games to avoid matching the team's worst record ever, which was set during the inaugural 1967-68 season. The Sonics have lost eight straight on the road and 19 of the last 21 away from KeyArena. They have only one victory in their last 15 games overall, beating Minnesota in overtime on March 2.
Durant missed his first four shots while the Lakers opened the game with a 17-5 run. The Lakers had four players in double figures by halftime, along with a 62-54 lead they extended to 93-76 by the end of the third quarter behind 13 points from Bryant. They opened the fourth with a 13-6 run that gave them a commanding 106-82 margin with 8:18 to play.
By leading the Los Angeles Lakers to the top of the tight Western Conference, Kobe Bryant is a leading candidate for the league MVP.
He probably already has the Seattle SuperSonics' vote.
Bryant tries for another stellar outing against the woeful SuperSonics as the Lakers look to sweep Seattle for the first time in 18 years on Friday night at Staples Center.
Bryant led Los Angeles (47-21) to a 106-95 win over Utah on Thursday, ending the Jazz's 19-game home winning streak. The Lakers made nine of their first 10 shots and were up by 20 before the end of the first quarter.
"The important thing for us is to get off to a good start. We were able to do that and keep the crowd out of it for the most part," said Bryant, who scored nine of his 27 points in the final five minutes, and also added eight rebounds and seven assists amid boos and scattered chants of "M-V-P!"
With the victory, the Lakers moved one-half game ahead of second-place New Orleans in the West, and are also one game up on Phoenix in the Pacific Division.
Los Angeles' rise to the top of the West has been remarkable, considering it finished seventh in the conference last season, and has been without emerging star Andrew Bynum at center since mid-January and Pau Gasol is expected to miss his fourth straight game with an injured left ankle.
Bryant, who has never won a regular-season MVP award in his illustrious career, has been vital to the Lakers' success. He is second in the league in scoring at 28.2 points and has already led Los Angeles to five more wins than it had all of last season.
In three games against the Sonics (16-52) this season, Bryant is averaging 34.7 points -- his third-best average against any opponent in 2007-08. The 10-time All-Star is averaging 40.0 points on 55.0 percent shooting during the Lakers' five-game winning streak over Seattle.
Los Angeles has won nine of its last 11 over the Sonics, but has not swept the season series since 1989-90.
The Lakers wrapped up a four-game road trip with a split after opening the trek with losses at New Orleans and Houston before beating Dallas and the Jazz. Los Angeles now plays seven of its next eight at Staples Center, where it has won seven of its last eight.
The Sonics, meanwhile, have lost seven straight road games, and are just 2-20 away from Seattle since Dec. 15. Seattle has lost three straight and nine of 12 against the Lakers in Los Angeles.
The owners of the West's worst record are coming off a 110-98 loss to Phoenix on Wednesday, Seattle's ninth straight loss and 13th in 14 games.
After giving up an NBA season-best 168 points to Denver in a 52-point loss on Sunday, the Sonics forced a season-high 27 turnovers on Wednesday, but allowed the Suns to hit an opponent season-high 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from 3-point range.
Seattle has allowed at least 110 points in each of its last eight games.
"If we play a little bit better defense we'll be in a lot of games," rookie Jeff Green said.
Fellow rookie Kevin Durant, who finished with 16 points against Phoenix, is averaging 19.7 on 34.5 percent shooting in three games versus the Lakers this season.Copyright 2007 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)
NOTES & CONNECTIONS
The Lakers, who lead their season series with the Sonics 3-0 with one game remaining, have now won each of the last three season series against Seattle. This will be the 211th meeting between the Lakers and Sonics with Los Angeles leading the all-time series 127-83. The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games against the Sonics and have won seven of their last eight against Seattle overall including the last five straight. At home, the Lakers have gone 7-3 their last 10 games against the Sonics and are 10-7 all-time against Seattle at STAPLES Center. In Seattle, the Lakers have gone 6-4 in their last 10 road games but have won five of their last six games at Key Arena. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 19-11 against Seattle. Last season, Kobe Bryant established a Lakers series record with 46 points 4/6/07 at Seattle only to surpass it nine days later with 50 points 4/15/07 vs. Seattle. In those games, he surpassed the old mark of 45 points established by himself in January of 2003 and Jerry West in December of 1970. In 42 career games including 35 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 24.6 points against the Sonics but has averaged 40.2 points against Seattle in their last five meetings. Additionally, Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf played high school basketball with Sonics center Johan Petro in France and for the French National Team in the 2006 FIBA World Championship in Japan. Lamar Odom and Sonics forward Chris Wilcox played one season together (2002-03) with the Los Angeles Clippers. Wilcox was traded from the Sonics to the Clippers in 2006 in exchange for current Lakers forward Vladimir Radmanovic. The Lakers defeated the Sonics 126-106 during a preseason matchup in Bakersfield on 10/18/07.
This season alone, Bryant has now moved past Terry Cummings, Walter Davis, Clifford Robinson, Bernard King, John Stockton, Tom Chambers, Mitch Richmond, George Gervin, David Robinson, Bob Pettit and Walt Bellamy. Hal Greer (21,586) is next on the list at 24th all-time.
STREAKS & STANDINGS
In regards to standings, the Lakers are tied with Houston for the Western Conference lead and lead Phoenix by one game for first place in the Pacific Division. Earlier in the season, the Lakers held the top spot in the West for two days (January 15-16) with a record of 26-11, marking the first time the Lakers led the Western Conference as late as January since they led the West back on April 3, 2004 with a record of 53-23. The Lakers regained the top spot in the West February 23 and held the top spot through March 5. The Lakers would once again regain the top spot in the West March 7 and either held or tied for the Conference lead through March 15. The Lakers again regained a tie for the top spot in the West after their March 18 victory over the Mavericks. In all, through March 18, the Lakers have ended 24 days this season either holding or being tied for the lead in the Western Conference.Click here to read the full Game Notes