These Kings-Lakers encounters almost never disappoint. Saturday night was no different. In front of a sold out arena - and the place is always packed with people and with emotion when the Lakers visit - Kobe Bryant led his team to a much-needed 103-98 victory and passed Wilt Chamberlain on the league's all-time scoring list.
Oh. One more thing. While the team's future in Sacramento is uncertain because the Maloofs have reached agreement to sell majority interest to a group intent on relocating the team to Seattle, Kobe predicted he'll be back here next year. He also (fondly) recalled Game 7 of the Kings-Lakers conference finals classic in 2001-02.
"They're (Kings) not going nowhere," Bryant said, laughing, when surrounded by reporters late Saturday in the visitors locker room. "The cowbells are still (clanging) ... I predict we'll be back here next year. You guys have been saying the same thing for three years."
Asked his thoughts about the Kings-Lakers rivalry, he added: "I think that Game 7 we had was a turning point for me. This environment, that great team, that was a really big turning point for me as an individual and also us a franchise."
About the record:
Bryant hit a foul line jumper with 7:54 remaining in the second quarter to move into fourth place on the league's scoring list. He trails only Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
With the injury-riddled Lakers battling for a playoff berth in the final weeks, and Steve Nash heading to the locker room early in the first period after his hamstring tightened, it was no surprise that Bryant was on the court for 47 minutes and 37 seconds. Though John Salmons harassed him throughout the evening, Kobe still managed 19 points, nine rebounds and a game-high 14 assists.
Kobe and Pau Gasol combined for 24 assists - five more than the Kings total.
The Lakers amassed nine steals and seven blocked shots, with Dwight Howard rejecting five Kings' attempts.
Turnovers and poor defensive rebounding continue to haunt the Kings. After committing only three miscues in the first half, the third quarter was a dribble-fest nightmare (10).
It's fair to say, that for all of DeMarcus Cousins' talents, long-range shooting isn't among them. The third-year center hoisted two three's, both in the final 13 shots - one after the Lakers closed quickly on Marcus Thornton and another on a desperation heave. Execution, execution, execution.