Lakers 132, Kings 128

If that’s the kind of game the Lakers and Kings are capable of producing on Jan. 4, I shudder to think what could happen April 18 when they meet again at Arco Arena for the final game of the regular season. The Lakers could be playing for a favorable path to the second round while the Kings might be just hoping to get in the playoffs.

In case you missed it, here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what happened late: The Kings led 116-112 with 6.7 seconds left in regulation after coming all the way back from 21 points down in the second half. Then Vladimir Radmanovic keeps the Lakers alive with a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining.

The Lakers are still on life support after Kobe Bryant is called for an away from play foul, putting Mike Bibby at the foul line and giving the Kings the ball as well. Except Bibby, an 85.3 percent free-throw shooter entering Thursday, comes up empty.

Then Kevin Martin – - the NBA’s seventh-best foul shooter at 91.1 percent – - makes just 1 of 2 with 4.0 seconds left. That gives the Lakers the chance to tie down 117-115. They inbound to Bryant, the player the league general managers voted they would most want taking the last shot with the game on the line.

What does Bryant do? He gives up the ball to Smush Parker cutting the lane after Bibby leaves him to double Bryant. Parker hits the runner to force overtime at the buzzer. The Lakers nearly blow a five-point lead in the final minute of overtime before Corliss Williamson misses a potential tying shot with 5.9 seconds left.

How Williamson winds up taking the last shot for the Kings we’re still trying to figure out. The game lasts 3:21, a minute longer than the Lakers’ triple-overtime loss to Charlotte thanks to the extended TNT broadcast timeouts and the 80 – - yes, 80 – - fouls that Dick Bavetta, Jess Kersey and Robbie Robinson called.

I’ll apologize in advance to everyone who gets the first edition of our sports section, the one that has to be off the floor by 10:30 p.m. It’s not usually an issue except for when the game ends after 11. I sneaked some Phil Jackson quotes in the 11:30 p.m. edition but here’s some extra quotes from the locker room.

Kobe Bryant: “You want to give yourself an opportunity to win the game or tie the game. We had an opportunity and we were able to capitalize on it. I’ve seen weirder things happen. Inevitably, every time we play here we wind up having a really great game.”

Mike Bibby: “When you have free throw shooters like Kevin Martin and I who don’t finish, that’s what hurt us the most tonight. It was kind of on our shoulders to make those and we let our team down. If you make free throws, the game is over.”

Corliss Williamson: “There were a lot of options we had (on the last play) but the Lakers did a good job in defending the pass. One of the last options was for me to flash across the lane and get the ball on the block. I thought I had a chance to drive in there and hit the shot.”

* * *

Starting in place of Kwame Brown, Andrew Bynum finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, four of which were offensive boards. He made two really nice plays in the first quarter, flipping in a shot over Shareef Abdur-Rahim while drawing a foul. Bynum had another chance at a three-point play after putting back a Luke Walton miss.

Bynum was on the floor late in the game as well but Lakers coach Phil Jackson decided to sit him in favor of Vladimir Radmanovic after Bynum picked up his pivot foot and was called for traveling with 2:53 left in the fourth and the Lakers clinging to a 108-105 lead.

Bynum came back for rebounding purposes as the Kings went to the foul line in the last 10 seconds and was on the floor for the start of overtime, when Jackson wanted him to win the tip-off. Jackson grimaced when Bynum missed the first of two free throws in overtime and sat him for the last 1:49.

It was a learning experience for Bynum, who played 33 minutes and did more than just stay out of foul trouble. Ronny Turiaf had six points and four rebounds but picked up four fouls in 10:30 off the bench.

* * *

The Lakers are now 5-0 in the Pacific Division. They’re the only team with a perfect division record left in the NBA.

* * *

By Ross Siler
Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO–As long as they must play without injured starters Lamar Odom and Kwame Brown, the only thing the Lakers can expect is the unexpected, a fact that was hammered home Thursday night at Arco Arena.

They played an adventure of a game against the Sacramento Kings, complete with a 74-point first half, a blown 21-point lead in the second half, a buzzer-beater at the end of regulation and ultimately a 132-128 victory in overtime.

For the fourth time in 10 games, the Lakers went to overtime to decide things. They led for the first 45-plus minutes but Sacramento was the team that couldnt hold onto a four-point lead in the last 6.7 seconds of the fourth quarter.

The Lakers sent the game to overtime on the play of the season. Sasha Vujacic inbounded the ball to Kobe Bryant some 30 feet from the basket with 4.0 seconds left. John Salmons and Mike Bibby both converged, expecting Bryant to take the last shot.

Instead, Bryant gave up the ball, firing a pass to Smush Parker, who cut down the lane after Bibby left him. Parker pushed in a shot with 0.1 seconds left as Corliss Williamson arrived to help too late for the Kings.

“I just told them that youre going to have opportunities to take the ball to the basket, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Theres 4 seconds, thats a lot of time when you get the ball inbounds.

“Dont be hesitant about moving the ball and taking it to the hoop because we dont have to score a 3. And Kobe said, `Im doubled all the time. You guys just be open or be aware.

Bryant finished with 42 points on 11-of-21 shooting with 10 rebounds and nine assists while Brian Cook (season-high 26 points) hit his first six shots and provided the instant offense Jackson was looking for without Odom and Brown.

Jackson saw Thursdays victory as sweet revenge after the Lakers lost here 118-109 in overtime last January after blowing a lead late in regulation in part because of an Odom charging foul.

“I think you come to Sacramento, watch a Laker-King game and youre going to find something different happening out there, Jackson said. “This is the second time in almost a year that weve just had an outrageous game with this team.

The Lakers led by as many as five points with a minute left in overtime but the Kings still had a chance to tie late as Bibby buried a 3-pointer with 11.7 seconds remaining and Bryant made just 1 of 2 free throws at the other end.

The Kings couldnt get the ball to Bibby, so Kevin Martin threw it to Williamson instead. Williamson missed around the basket with 5.9 seconds left and Bryant finished things at the foul line.

After a 3-hour, 21-minute game, the Lakers once again found a way around the injuries to win. They are 3-0 this season without Bryant, 6-5 without Odom, 1-0 without Odom and Brown and 21-11 overall.

The Lakers are 10 games above .500 for the first time since the Shaquille ONeal trade.

Parker finished with 10 points while Vladimir Radmanovic had five points and connected on the 3-pointer that kept the Lakers alive in the fourth quarter. Bibby led the Kings with 38 points while Ron Artest fouled out with 1:28 left in regulation.

After watching the referees call 26 fouls in a second quarter that crawled along, sending the two teams to the free-throw line an arena-record 47 times, Bryant was left in disbelief as no foul was called on a potential tying drive with 10.9 seconds left.

Bryant went up into the arms of Salmons and Williamson as his bank shot from 8 feet rimmed out. The Kings grabbed the rebound and Salmons converted two free throws to make it 116-112 with 6.7 seconds left.

If the game looked over, it wasnt. Radmanovic buried a corner 3-pointer as the Lakers closed to 116-115.

“We always tell guys, `Keep playing because you never know whats going to happen, Jackson said. “We had 3-point shooters in the game, Vlade knocked that down, we had the opportunity to do something.

Bryant, however, was called for an away from play foul on the subsequent inbounds that left him stunned. But Bibby missed the free throw and Martin missed the first of two with 4.0 seconds left. That was all the opening the Lakers needed.

Bryant took only one shot and did not score in the first quarter but watched as the Lakers took a 33-18 lead after the opening 12 minutes. Cook was knocking down shots, Bryant was moving the ball and the Lakers were rolling.

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