Work in Sports
LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- The Sacramento Kings have experienced the full effect of the Los Angeles Lakers' 1-2 punch.
This time, Kobe Bryant carried the offense with a playoff career-high 32 points and the Lakers cruised to their second straight convincing victory, a 113-89 defeat of the Kings in Game Two of their Western Conference first-round series.
In Game One, the Kings were overpowered by Shaquille O'Neal, who scored a playoff career-high 46 points in a 117-107 win. Tonight, they were grounded by the soaring Bryant, who seems to improve with every game.
"We spent a lot of time talking about Shaq but we probably should have spent more talking about Kobe," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "They played a really solid game and Kobe Bryant was terrific in the first half. He made a lot of tough shots."
"Kobe bailed us out in the first half," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "He had a great first half."
The high-flying All-Star guard attacked from inside and out as he lit up Nick Anderson and Jon Barry. He scored 15 points in the first quarter, when the Lakers took the lead for good, and added flurries in the second and third periods to turn away rallies by the Kings.
"You just read the gaps," Bryant said. "You don't have to think during the game. You just go out there and let in happen. Most of the time Shaq was on the blocks and (Vlade) Divac was afraid to leave him, which left me room to go to the hole."
Bryant made 12-of-20 shots despite sitting out the final nine minutes. He covered for O'Neal, who was somewhat hampered by foul trouble in the first half but still collected 23 points, 19 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.
"The whole world knows that they were not going to let me get 46 again," O'Neal said. "I have been out there in that situation before with the doubles and triples coming very quickly. I was anxious to give my other teammates the ball. It was an easy game for me tonight. I didn't have to bump and run people over."
Against the defenseless Kings, it appears the only thing the top-seeded Lakers have to guard against is overconfidence. Game Three is Sunday in Sacramento, where Los Angeles can complete its first playoff series sweep since 1991 against Houston.
Losers of nine of 10 going back to the regular season, the Kings appear to have given up. They never led after the first five minutes, forced just seven turnovers and made one steal.
Chris Webber and Jason Williams traded trash talk with fans in the first half and Webber and Nick Anderson were laughing on the bench with their team trailing by 30 points in the final minutes.
When asked if there was any hope for Game Three, Anderson said, "Hope?" and started laughing again. "Maybe you wanna help us out."
Glen Rice scored 18 points for the Lakers, who shot 49 percent (41-of-84) and held advantages of 48-40 in rebounding and 24-7 in fast-break points.
Webber had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Divac scored 14 points for the Kings, who shot 42.5 percent (34-of-80) and had no other players in double figures. Webber shot 8-of-28.
"This loss hasn't sunk in," said Webber, who has yet to win a playoff series in his seven-year career. ""I'll be able to talk about it maybe tomorrow. It's just not a good time for me right now."
Bryant had a pair of driving layups to cap a 7-0 run that gave the Lakers the lead for good at 14-10 with 7:03 left in the first quarter. He added a dunk for a three-point play and another slam to extend the lead to 23-15 with 4:34 remaining.
O'Neal had to take a seat with his second foul with 2:38 left but the Lakers extended the lead without him as Bryant threw in 3-pointers on consecutive trips.
"Kobe got the ball in the open court and finished," Adelman said. "And he made a lot of shots in the half-court (set) over people. You have to give him credit. We didn't have an answer for him. He just did it all."
Sacramento trailed 35-24 after one period but got a boost off the bench in the second quarter from Tony Delk, who scored 17 points in Game One. His three-point play and two free throws completed a 10-1 surge and cut the deficit to 40-38 with 7:28 left.
But the Kings never drew the pivotal third foul on O'Neal, who made two free throws and a jumper. Bryant followed with a behind-the-back dribble for a reverse layup and a 3-pointer to cap a 12-1 run and rebuild the lead to 52-39 with just under two minutes to go.
"We started to turn it up," Bryant said. "We saw that defensively we were doing a solid job and offensively we could turn it up some. We were able to get a lot of easy baskets that came from our defense."
"I think Kobe did just a great job," Divac said. "He kept them in the game with three or four baskets in a row and we just couldn't contain him. He was ready to go."
"Kobe is a very impressive player," O'Neal said.
Bryant scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the first half as Los Angeles opened a 56-41 lead. It was more of the same in the third quarter as Bryant scored eight points, including six in a row to extend the margin to 76-55 with 3:01 left. At one point, Webber huddled his teammates on the floor and began shouting at them.
O'Neal scored eight points in the final period, including a jumper from the left baseline that arced over the backboard and swished through, giving Los Angeles a 106-78 lead with 4:45 to go. He joined Bryant on the bench at the next whistle.