Kobe's 38 points fuel Lakers past
LOS ANGELES (AP)
The Kings capitalized on that wandering focus for an impressive comeback until the Masked Mamba finished them off.
Kobe Bryant scored 38 points in his second straight big game in a protective mask, and the Lakers blew most of a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding on to beat Sacramento 115-107 Friday night in their highest-scoring performance of the season.
Bryant warmed up for Miami's Sunday afternoon visit with eight rebounds, three assists and 13-for-24 shooting in his second game since Dwyane Wade gave him a concussion and a nasal fracture with a hard foul in the All-Star game.
Kobe wasn't thinking about the guy who broke his nose while making sure the Lakers didn't stub their toes against Sacramento.
''We played well, (but) we didn't come in with the right sense of urgency and focus in the fourth quarter, and it almost cost us,'' Bryant said.
Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who improved to 16-1 at home since losing their season opener on Christmas. Pau Gasol added 15 points, and Metta World Peace scored eight of his 15 points in the final 5 minutes when the Lakers finally countered a lengthy rally by Sacramento's reserves.
''We were doing good things offensively,'' Gasol said before recalling the Lakers' similar fourth-quarter woes two nights earlier against Minnesota. ''But the last two games, we got such a big lead, we stopped doing the things that got us such a big lead. Against Miami, we can't afford to let up at any time.''
Francisco Garcia scored 18 points to lead seven Kings in double figures in their eighth loss in 10 games.
After Sacramento trailed 94-74 early in the fourth quarter, its reserves scored 11 consecutive points during a 21-6 run that trimmed the Lakers' lead to 100-95 on Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer with 5 minutes to play.
''It was a great confidence-builder for myself, but ultimately we wanted to win the game,'' said Fredette, who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter. ''We were coming back, and we had a few things that didn't go our way, and a couple of shots that didn't go down that could have put us really close.''
World Peace and Bryant both hit key 3-pointers down the stretch to counteract big baskets by Fredette and John Salmons, who had eight of his 12 in the final period.
Marcus Thornton scored 15 points for the Kings, who have lost two straight since California's capital city announced its financing plan for a $391 million downtown arena to replace Arco Arena. Sacramento couldn't keep up with the Lakers despite committing just five turnovers, their fewest in a game since Dec. 1, 2007.
''These guys could have folded and said, `It's over, we're going to roll over,''' Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. ''But they played hard and got themselves back in the game, and that's why this group is going to be OK. This group is going to come around as we continue to get familiar with each other, and they're going to play hard every single night.''
Two nights after scoring 31 points in a win over Minnesota in his first game in the mask, Bryant had 31 points through three quarters against the defense-deficient Kings. The NBA's leading scorer had 20 points in the first half, but didn't score in the fourth until hitting a rally-killing 3-pointer with 2:43 to play.
Bryant is sticking with his clear plastic mask until his nose is less tender, although he says the protection feels like ''a sauna on my face.''
The mask hasn't affected his vision or his shooting stroke: He's 20 for 24 on free throws since donning the mask, even though he banked in his last foul shot with 9.5 seconds left.
''The mask felt fine,'' Bryant said. ''It felt fine last game, it felt fine tonight.''
The Lakers have had trouble with their upstate rivals in recent months, starting with Sacramento's 100-95 win at Staples Center in January 2011 to snap a six-game skid in the series. The Kings then beat the Lakers at home on Dec. 26 while Bynum served a suspension, sending Los Angeles off to a 0-2 start to the season.
Notes: Before the game, Sacramento announced forward J.J. Hickson will miss the next three games to rest a bruised hip. The fourth-year backup was hurt during the Kings' loss to the Clippers earlier this week. ... Derek Fisher got a technical foul for arguing a foul called against him after Isaiah Thomas hit him in the head with his elbow and then pulled Fisher down to the court in the third quarter. ... Eddie Murphy watched the game from courtside.