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Los Angeles 106, Sacramento 99
Posted: Saturday May 18, 2002 11:43 PM
Los Angeles Lakers
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Sacramento Kings
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SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers' victory tour shows no signs of slowing down.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points and Shaquille O'Neal added 26 as the Lakers extended their road playoff winning streak to 12 games with a 106-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings in the opener of the Western Conference finals.

Los Angeles never trailed in claiming home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series. Bryant did most of his damage in the first half with 16 points and O'Neal had a huge third quarter with 14.

"We had a great rhythm going," Bryant said. "The challenge of playing against Sacramento and not having home-court advantage and then our execution, improving steadily and then to get to this point and knock down shots in the first quarter feels great."

O'Neal dunked 3 1/2 minutes into the game for a 13-4 lead as the Lakers established control early. Los Angeles made nine of its first 10 shots, capped by a jumper by Rick Fox that made it 19-10. Bryant stole the ball from Mike Bibby and threw down a one-handed slam for a 36-22 lead after one quarter.

Sacramento pulled within five points four times in the final two minutes, but Los Angeles had an answer each time. Bryant made four free throws and Derek Fisher sank 2-of-4 in the last minute.

"We were able to answer every call in the second half," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "We were relying on Shaq and Kobe in the course of the closing minutes."

Chris Webber collected 28 points and 14 rebounds for Sacramento, which fell to just 3-3 at Arco Arena in the playoffs. The Kings had the NBA's best home record during the season at 36-5.

The crowd at Arco Arena reached noise levels as high as 112 decibels, but it did not faze the two-time defending champions after their quick start. Los Angeles shot 67 percent (16-of-24) in the opening quarter by using unselfish play, registering 11 assists.

"I think we're a better team on the road," O'Neal said. "We have played in all types of hostile arenas. My guys get pumped up when they're challenged."

"It was a really tough first quarter," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "It's really difficult to get yourself down 10-12 points with that team."

The Kings played without All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic, who is expected to miss Game Two with a sprained right ankle. Hedo Turkoglu got the start in Stojakovic's place, missed all eight shots and did not score.

"I need to come out and play better on Monday," Turkoglu said. "I need to be more aggressive and put some points on the board for my team."

Bryant made 12-of-26 shots and added six rebounds and five assists for the Lakers. They also got a boost from Robert Horry, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.

"I know that if I hit my first shot and then my second, then I'm going to have a good shooting night," Horry said. "I play the same type of ball all year long, people just tend to notice it more in the playoffs."

Sacramento got strong games from its point guard combination of Bibby and Bobby Jackson, who combined for 30 points. But the free-wheeling Kings, normally one of the league's deadliest perimeter teams, made just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc without Stojakovic.

Former Laker Vlade Divac collected 12 points and 11 rebounds. He had made comments before the game that Los Angeles could not win the title without home-court advantage, a curious statement considering the Lakers' winning ways on the road.

"Obviously, we put ourselves in a big situation in the first quarter," Divac said. "I am not really happy with the tempo of the game at the beginning."

Bibby made two free throws and former Laker Doug Christie sank a layup to pull the Kings within 95-89 with just over four minutes to go in the fourth quarter. O'Neal had been held scoreless in the final period but responded with a three-point play for a nine-point cushion.

Sacramento climbed to 98-93 on an acrobatic layup by Jackson with just over two minutes to play. Fisher missed a 3-pointer and the rebound was headed to Webber. O'Neal appeared to go over the back in tipping the ball to Horry, who had an easy dunk.

"You just have to credit them for stepping up," Webber said. "I have faith in our team, and we need to take it one day at a time."

Christie fouled out with 13 points for Sacramento, which got into foul trouble trying to contain O'Neal. Webber and Divac each committed five fouls.

 


 
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