With just one game remaining in the regular season everything was on the line tonight for the Lakers. With a win the team would clinch the second seed in the Western Conference and assure home court advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. A loss would drop Los Angeles to the third seed, and would give them an unfavorable match-up with a very tough Portland Trail Blazers squad in the first round.
The arena tonight was more energetic than usual, as the fans in Sacramento knew that this very well could be the Kings last home game in the city of Sacramento. In an arena that is known for its raucous crowd, the Lakers knew they would have to play with enough energy to take the crowd out of the game early.
The game began as many people expected – loud. The Power Balance Pavilion (formerly Arco Arena) crowd knew that this could be their last chance to see their beloved Kings play. The Kings came out with energy and excitement, and forced the Lakers to match their intensity early in the first. Unlike last night, the Lakers started tonight with a consistent approach on the offensive end. Unfortunately their defense left much to be desired. The energy from the Kings allowed them to get past the Lakers lackadaisical defense and get several easy lay-ups.
The end of the quarter was played with excitement and energy. By the time the quarter ended the Lakers led 31-26 over the Kings.
For the first time in a long time the Lakers reserves came in and took care of business against the Sacramento bench. Lately the bench has been a major concern for Los Angeles, who has repeatedly seen leads disappear whenever the reserves take the floor. The bench did their job early in the second tonight, though, as they built the lead the starters handed them at the end of the first.
An exciting bright spot for the Lakers off the bench was the newly acquired Trey Johnson. After signing with the Lakers earlier in the week Johnson came off the bench and scored his first four points with the Lakers on two jump shots in the quarter. The Lakers built a 16 point lead late in the quarter but the Kings stormed back and cut the lead in half by the break. With 24 minutes left in the regular season the Lakers led the Kings 56-48.
The Kings spent the early part of the third quarter trying to chip into the Lakers lead. In a game that meant a lot to the city of Sacramento and the Kings, it was no surprise that the Kings were not rolling over. While the game meant more to the Lakers in the standings, the Kings played with just as much energy to start the second half.
Ultimately the Lakers talent was too much for the Kings. Los Angeles pushed their lead back to 18 late in the quarter and it seemed as if the Lakers were going to send the Kings out of Sacramento with another loss. Shannon Brown hit consecutive three point shots to push the Lakers lead to 88-70 at the end of the third.
Early in the quarter the Lakers pushed their lead up to 20. It seemed that despite all the energy and passion from the fans early in the game. With rookie sensation DeMarcus Cousins leaving the game via ejection early in the quarter the Kings’ fate was all but sealed. However, Sacramento managed to cut into the lead after Cousins left, but it seemed too little too late for Sacramento. The Kings were able to cut the lead to eight with five minutes remaining.
As the quarter progressed the Kings continued to gain momentum. Offensive rebounds gave them second opportunities and they were able to capitalize. Sacramento’s run was 22-4 and had them within two with plenty of time left on the clock. Out of a timeout the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant forced a tough shot and the Kings immediately tied the game. Seconds later the Kings took their first lead of the second half and the Lakers were left looking for answers. Too many bad shots down the stretch doomed the Lakers, and appeared to condemn them to the third seed in the Western Conference. Trailing by three with one possession left the Lakers gave the ball to Bryant – and he rewarded them.
At the end of regulation the game was tied at 99, and in a seemingly fitting scenario the fans in Sacramento got free basketball in what could be the last game in the state capital.
This was the fourth overtime game of the season for the Lakers, and they were 3-0 in their previous attempts. The extra period started well for the Lakers as veteran guard Derek Fisher hit a very long three to put the Lakers back on top. The teams exchanged leads down until the two minute mark of the quarter until problems with the shot clock forced the officials to stop the clock. The Lakers strung together two straight buckets and built their lead to 108-103 with less than two minutes remaining.
The Kings went cold down the stretch and the Lakers managed to escape with a victory. A big three-point play converted by Lamar Odom sealed the deal for Los Angeles, and propelled them into the playoffs as the second seed in the west. When time finally expired the Lakers had defeated the Kings in the possible last game in Sacramento, 116-108.[phpbay]Lakers Swingman, 3, “”, “”[/phpbay]