Lakers roll at home to end losing streak
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Nothing was wrong with the Los Angeles Lakers that a visit from pitiful Sacramento couldn't repair - or least patch up until the two-time champions get back from a long weekend of rest and refocusing.
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Lamar Odom had 16 points and seven rebounds as the Lakers capitalized on nearly optimal conditions for ending their longest skid since April 2007. The struggling Kings couldn't keep up with the Lakers in the paint or on the break, leaving coach Phil Jackson grateful for the win, even if he wasn't sure what it meant.
"It's hard to judge," Jackson said. "Have we broken free from the bonds that held us back, or did we just get a weak sister at this time of year?"
It's a little too early to worry about it, Jackson agreed. The Lakers radiated veteran calm while dealing with their longest losing stretch since Gasol joined the team nearly three years ago - although a loss to Sacramento would have been a valid reason to freak out a bit.
"All I'm going to say is that we played the right way," Bryant said. "It felt good to win this game, but it's more about doing the right things to be successful."
The Lakers weren't blown out in any game during their skid after a 13-2 start, losing in the final minutes to Utah, Indiana, Memphis and Houston since Thanksgiving.
Bryant claimed the only thing Los Angeles lacked was defense - something it hardly needed against Sacramento. Los Angeles jumped to an 18-point lead in the first half and stretched it to 32 before Bryant and Gasol wrapped up their evenings late in the third quarter.
"We did what we needed to, from the first to the last man," said Shannon Brown, who scored 14 points. "We're not letting ourselves sink down into anything. We just regrouped and went back out there to play more basketball. It feels good to get back on a winning track."
They'll try to stay on that track during three straight days off before Washington visits next week.
Jason Thompson scored 19 for the Kings, who have lost six straight and 12 of 13. Tyreke Evans added 15 points on 5 of 15 shooting, and Pooh Jeter scored 11 in 12 minutes of garbage time for Sacramento, which has lost eight straight to Los Angeles.
"It's a lot going on right now, and it's frustrating," Evans said. "We've been losing. Nobody in here wants to lose on purpose. We've just got to go out there and find a way. It starts with us. The coaches, they coach, but we're the ones on the floor."
Gasol arrived at Staples Center about an hour before tip-off after getting treatment throughout the afternoon for his strained hamstring, which could be a product of his heavy workload last month in the absence of injured Lakers big men Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff. Gasol led the Lakers with 748 minutes played through Wednesday - 112 more than Bryant.
Gasol played a season-low 27 minutes against the Kings, and Bryant logged just 26.
"We came out focused and we played aggressive from the first minute," Gasol said. "We kept our energy throughout the game, even in the fourth quarter."
Every player scored for Los Angeles - even Ron Artest, who had just two points in 28 minutes. Steve Blake hit three 3-pointers while scoring 11 points, and rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks each hit their modest career highs.
Just how bad was Sacramento's defense? Midway through the third quarter, the Lakers had outscored the Kings 50-10 in the paint, meaning 25 of the Lakers' 30 field goals came from right next to the hoop.
"They were definitely focused and needing a win, and they took it to us," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "I thought we hung fairly well in the first quarter. The biggest problem was we turned the ball over too many times, and as the turnovers continued and the poor shooting continued, the avalanche started."
Bryant and Gasol checked out for good with 2:55 left in the third quarter, and the Lakers' reserves kept outplaying Sacramento in the final minutes. Brown had a two-handed slam and a double-clutch layup on consecutive possessions, getting the crowd - including Bryant - out of the seats.
NOTES: Lakers F Luke Walton picked up three fouls in 2 minutes in the first half. ... Kings C Samuel Dalembert played despite tendinitis in his right knee. ... Evans left the court for several minutes in the first quarter, but returned to the game. ... Fans near courtside included "Mike & Molly" stars Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, radio host Eddie "Piolin" Sotelo and Andy Garcia.