Work in Sports
SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- It was hard to say whether the mob in the stands or the mob on the court had more of an effect on the Los Angeles Lakers.
Spurred on by a raucous sellout crowd at Arco Arena and two pivotal members of the "Bench Mob," the Sacramento Kings fought off elimination with a 99-91 victory over the Lakers in Game Three of their Western Conference first-round series.
The top-seeded Lakers looked superb in a pair of wins in Los Angeles as they thoroughly dismantled the Kings. They looked to be on their way to a sweep as they rode superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant to a 71-66 lead after three quarters.
Forward Predrag Stokajovic and guard Tony Delk began the final period in place of Corliss Williamson and Jason Williams, who had been largely ineffective in the series. They teamed with All-Star forward Chris Webber to rally the Kings to victory in front of the crowd of 17,317.
"I thought we were very aggressive," Delk said. "We were going to Chris and other guys we getting involved. We just had to pass the ball. We have a lot of good shooters."
"We were just confident offensively," Stojakovic said. "We approached the game in a different way, very aggressive and I can say, very confident."
Stojakovic scored 10 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter, making a pair of 3-pointers. Delk had nine of his 11 in the final period, running the offense, making shots and grabbing four offensive rebounds to keep alive crucial possessions.
Sacramento's subs call themselves the "Bench Mob" and Stojakovic and Delk led a unit that outscored the Lakers' reserves, 34-11, including 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
"Our bench obviously wasn't as productive theirs," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "They had a great lift off the bench from Delk and Stojakovic; both of them gave them a great bump. The energy from the crowd kept the team playing."
Webber had 29 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists for the Kings, who recovered nicely after a pair of poor performances in Los Angeles and forced Game Four here on Tuesday.
"I couldn't be more proud of our team," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "With some of the things that were said about last game, I knew that we were gonna come out and really compete today. We didn't know if that was gonna be enough but it was and so now we live for another day."
Bryant scored 35 points and O'Neal added 21 and 17 rebounds for the Lakers, who were outscored 33-20 in the fourth quarter and denied their first playoff series sweep in nine years.
"Delk came in and did an excellent job for them," Bryant said. "He brought a lot of energy to their team. Stojakovic, he's a big part of their team. Whenever he plays well, they're in the game."
Two free throws by Delk and a 3-pointer by Stojakovic gave the Kings their first lead of the series at 73-72 with 9:44 to go. O'Neal dunked before taking a quick breather and Bryant made a pair of baskets to give the Lakers a 78-73 lead with 8:13 left.
Stojakovic made another 3-pointer and O'Neal returned but the clinching 14-0 run was under way. Webber had a three-point play to give Sacramento the lead for good at 79-78 with 7:01 to go.
The 6-2 Delk snuck inside for a follow shot, Stojakovic went back-door for a layup, Webber dunked and Jon Barry knocked down a jumper for an 87-78 lead with 4:29 to play. Glen Rice ended the run with a jumper, but Delk and Webber scored again for a 91-80 lead with 3:19 remaining and it was a three-possession game thereafter.
"It's not only five players," Stojakovic said. "When one of them goes out, someone else has to step up. This is a team game and you have to win as a team."
"Tony Delk played tremendously today," Webber said. "Just his patience because he has great dribbling moves and really hits the 15-footer. We could really see it during the game. He was pumped up and ready to go."
Vlade Divac battled O'Neal and had 15 points and 12 rebounds and Williams scored 10 points for the Kings, who shot 43 percent (35-of-81) from the field and made 24-of-34 free throws.
Rice scored 13 points for the Lakers, who shot 41 percent (35-of-86) but made just 16-of-32 from the line. O'Neal made 5-of-14 free throws.
Bryant scored 10 points in the first quarter as Los Angeles grabbed a 28-22 lead. O'Neal added nine in the second period as the Lakers took a 51-46 lead to intermission. Webber kept Sacramento in it with 16 points.