Kobe and Co. Clobber Kings
SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 11 (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal
was far from super, and Kobe Bryant
Still, the Los Angeles Lakers were smiling.
Bryant scored 26 of his 36 points in the second half, and O'Neal had 21 points and 18 rebounds as the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 103-81 on Friday night for their 14th straight victory and a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
| Kobe Bryant scored a team-high 36 points.|
| NBA.com TV highlights: 28.8+ |
The Lakers will go for a sweep in Game 4 on Sunday, which would likely set up a meeting with Midwest Division champ San Antonio in the conference finals.
Bryant, who played second fiddle to O'Neal in the Lakers' first two victories, got in early foul trouble, and missed 10 straight shots at one point. But he scored nine straight points during a critical second-half stretch as the world champions calmly broke open a tight game and cruised to an easy victory.
"You don't know how much experience can help you until you go through it," Bryant said. "We know how to finish games now, and we do it."
O'Neal, who set an NBA record by getting more than 40 points and 20 rebounds in each of the Lakers' first two victories in the series, also got in early foul trouble and often couldn't get free from Vlade Divac
and the Kings' double-teams.
O'Neal didn't get rolling until late in the game, when he wore a broad smile as the Kings futilely fouled him on consecutive layups. Sacramento fell apart in the fourth quarter with bad shots and turnovers, and O'Neal got an early rest after Los Angeles made a 17-8 run to put the game away.
"Shaq came up to us and said, 'Don't worry about me. You guys just do whatever it takes,"' Bryant said.
The Kings, who lost to the Lakers for the seventh time in their last eight meetings, finally limited O'Neal's dominance with double-teams and hard-nosed defense. Unfortunately, none of that defensive determination showed up on offense, where Sacramento was indecisive and inaccurate, shooting 35 percent.
"We were so impatient offensively. We're just killing ourselves," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman
said. "They're a quality team, but that was mostly our doing, what we did to ourselves. ... We're a little deflated now."
had 28 points and 14 rebounds but missed 14 shots, and the rest of the Kings didn't contribute much. Peja Stojakovic, the Kings' second-leading scorer, again was hounded by Rick Fox
into a poor-shooting night, finishing with 14 points.
The Kings' frenzied fans at Arco Arena were in top form for the game, which didn't start until nearly 8 p.m. Pacific time and took on the atmosphere of a concert or a monster truck rally. Last season, Sacramento lost two first-round games at Staples Center before winning twice at Arco to force a fifth game.
Shaquille O'Neal grabs the offensive rebound and hammers it down:
624k avi |
But the Kings, who thought their shooting problems in Los Angeles might change back home, began with one of their most lackluster halves of the season, quickly draining the energy from their fans. Sacramento missed 14 of its first 16 shots in the second quarter.
Missing open jumpers and passing with none of the usual flair or confidence, the Kings fell behind by 13 points in the first quarter and 17 shortly before halftime.
But O'Neal and Bryant both sat out much of the second quarter with fouls, and the Lakers weren't able to build more than a 46-37 halftime lead. When the Lakers saw Sacramento's determination to corral O'Neal, they directed their offense to Bryant in the second half.
"We said, 'Go anywhere but to Shaq,"' Lakers coach Phil Jackson
said. "Everybody else was open. Still, (O'Neal) found a way in the second half."
It was the Lakers' turn to go cold in the third quarter, when they missed 12 of their first 16 shots and let the Kings pull back within four points. But Bryant scored 11 points in a four-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters, and the Lakers gradually pulled away.
NBA Commissioner David Stern visited Sacramento for the first time in five years. He recalled his first visit to the city when the original Arco Arena was little more than "a warehouse," then hailed the city's fan base and ownership as "a commissioner's dream. This is our smallest town, and it's our loudest building. This is just as exciting as anything I've ever seen in this league." ... Jackson arrived in Sacramento a few hours before game time after watching his son graduate from the University of Colorado earlier in the day.