Lakers Gameday | 04/15/08 | Lakers 124, Kings 101
Lakers cruise to rout of Kings, clinch No. 1 seed, home-court for playoffs
The Los Angeles Lakers began the season in chaos 5½ months ago. They finished it as the Western Conference champions.
Pau Gasol had 22 points, leading MVP candidate Kobe Bryant added 20, and the Lakers beat the short-handed Sacramento Kings 124-101 Tuesday night to clinch the No. 1 seed in the West and home-court advantage throughout the conference playoffs.
The Lakers (57-25), who won eight of their last nine games, begin the playoffs this weekend -- most likely Sunday -- against Denver or Dallas. It will be the Nuggets unless they beat Memphis and Dallas loses to New Orleans on Wednesday night. If the Hornets win, they'll have the same record as the Lakers, but Los Angeles wins the tiebreaker by virtue of a better conference record.
Gasol shot 9-of-11 before coming out of the game for good with 2:38 left in the third quarter, and Bryant joined him on the bench moments later after having shot just 3-of-13. But he went 13-of-14 from the foul line.
Lamar Odom added 15 points and 12 rebounds, Vladimir Radmanovic scored 14, Jordan Farmar added 13 points, and Ronny Turiaf had 10 points and six assists for the Lakers, who went strictly with reserves in the fourth quarter.
Quincy Douby led the Kings (38-44) with a career-high 32 points. Beno Udrih scored 22 points, Francisco Garcia added 15 and Sheldon Williams had 12 points and a season-high 11 rebounds.
The Kings played their final game of the season without their top three scorers: Kevin Martin, Ron Artest and Brad Miller. Artest, who has a sprained left thumb, missed the final two games after scoring 22 points in a 94-91 victory over New Orleans on Saturday night, a triumph that opened the door for the Lakers to win the West.
The Lakers overcame injuries to up-and-coming center Andrew Bynum and backup forward Trevor Ariza to win the West after a 9-8 start. Bynum (left knee) hasn't played since Jan. 13, and Ariza (right foot) has been sidelined since being injured a week later. There's no timetable on their return.
The acquisition of Gasol from Memphis on Feb. 1 has paid huge dividends. The Lakers are 22-5 with the 7-footer in their lineup. Gasol returned earlier this month after missing nine games because of a sprained ankle.
Bryant, regarded as one of the NBA's best players for several years but without an MVP award in 11 previous seasons, called the Lakers' front office a mess and demanded a trade last spring in the wake of the team's failure to win a playoff series for the third straight year.
After things calmed down, team owner Dr. Jerry Buss said during training camp he was listening to offers, angering Bryant again. Trade talk was a constant for the first weeks of the season, but Bryant said recently this has been his most satisfying year because of the relationship he's had with his teammates.
Reserves Farmar, Turiaf and Sasha Vujacic showed significant improvement between last season and this one.
Odom scored five points during a 12-4 run that gave the Lakers a 76-57 lead early in the third quarter, and a 22-7 spurt to end the period made it 101-72. The Lakers led by as many as 30 points in the fourth quarter.
Garcia sat out the last 8 1/2 minutes of the second quarter with three fouls, and teammate Spencer Hawes soon picked up his third and went to the bench. The Lakers led 62-48 at halftime thanks to a 3-pointer by Farmar at the buzzer. Douby, averaging 4.4 points, had 15 in the half to match his previous season high.
The Lakers, who never trailed for the 15th time this season, made their first four shots for an 8-0 lead, and led 34-27 entering the second quarter.
As the only playoff team to conclude the regular season on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Lakers will get an extra day of rest before beginning their postseason run.
With a win, they'll be able to rest easy.
The Lakers can wrap up home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs on Tuesday when they close the regular season against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center.
Los Angeles (56-25) has won three in a row to move one-half game ahead of New Orleans for the top record in the loaded West. By virtue of a 107-104 victory over the Hornets on Friday, the Lakers ensured they'd own the tie-breaker between the conference's two best teams.
They followed that win over the West's second-best team with a one over the third-best, an impressive 106-85 thrashing of defending champion San Antonio on Sunday.
Now, Los Angeles can clinch the No. 1 seed by beating Sacramento.
"It's still our responsibility to finish this the right way," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "And that was our message in the locker room after the game. Fortunately for us, we got some rest, got some guys who had a little bit of time to recover before Tuesday night."
The Lakers are the fourth-highest scoring team in the NBA, averaging 108.4 points, but lately impressive defense has helped them win. Los Angeles has yielded just 89.0 points per game in its last three victories.
"It's just like offense," Lakers star Kobe Bryant said. "You have to find out what your identity is. I think we have found that defensively. We are very aggressive. We have a tremendous amount of versatility -- wings and bigs who are fast and athletic and long. We can get after guys."
Bryant, who has made the NBA's all-defensive first team five times, is averaging only 21.7 points in his last three games, but the Lakers' offensive balance has been on full display. Six players scored in double figures in wins over the Los Angeles Clippers and the Spurs.
Aside from Bryant and the return of injured center Andrew Bynum, no Laker may have as much of an impact on the team's postseason fortunes as Pau Gasol.
Gasol, whom the Lakers acquired from Memphis in February, has never won a postseason game.
He's looked excellent lately, though, tuning up for his first playoff run in Los Angeles. Gasol is averaging 18.3 points and 7.7 rebounds while shooting 58.1 percent since returning from an ankle injury on April 2.
The Kings (38-43) won't be joining the Lakers in the playoffs, but they've played well down the stretch. They've won six of nine, including wins over Western contenders Houston, Denver and New Orleans.
Sacramento hung in with the Spurs on Monday, but lost 101-98 despite getting 29 points and 10 rebounds from John Salmons.
"It was disappointing that we didn't come through with a win, but that's a championship team," said Salmons. "We can take that into the offseason on a positive note."
The Kings have dropped two of three against the Lakers this season, but won their only trip to Staples Center, 114-113 on March 9. Beno Udrih had 25 points and 10 assists in that victory, and Kevin Martin added 21 points.
Ron Artest has played well against the Lakers this season, averaging 19.7 points in three games, but he's missed four of the Sacramento's last six games with a sprained thumb.
He's listed as day-to-day.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 lead their season series with Sacramento 2-1 with one game remaining after winning last season’s series with the Kings 3-1. This will be the 266th meeting between the two franchises and the 101st since the Kings moved to Sacramento. The Lakers lead the all-time series with the Kings 180-85 (71-29 vs. Sacramento). In their last 10 meetings, the Lakers are 7-3 against Sacramento. The Lakers are 10-7 alltime against the Kings at STAPLES Center but are just 5-5 in their last 10. At ARCO Arena, the Lakers have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games but have won four straight in Sacramento. In their most recent meeting April 6, the Lakers defeated the Kings by 22 points, their largest victory in Sacramento since a 23-point win 3/23/89. Last season, the Lakers were whistled for 42 personal fouls in their 132-128 overtime victory January 4, 2007 at ARCO Arena, establishing a new Los Angeles era franchise record. The Lakers last committed 42 personal fouls back on 2/17/57 versus St. Louis when the team was still in Minneapolis. Additionally, the Lakers and Kings combined for 80 personal fouls and 102 free throws on the night, which was, at the time, the most fouls committed by two teams in more than seven years. Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 19-12 against the Kings. In 42 career games against the Kings including 34 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.7 points. In four games against the Kings last season, Bryant averaged 31.3 points. The Lakers and Kings haven’t met in the postseason since the 2002 Western Conference Finals. While Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher both played in that series, no Kings remain on their roster from that season following the trade of Mike Bibby earlier this season.
LAKERS CLINCH 19th PACIFIC DIVISION TITLE, CONTROL OWN DESTINY FOR #1 SEED IN THE WEST
THE CONFERENCE ONE SEED