Archive for Sunday, May 19, 2002

Western Conference Finals: Lakers silence Kings

Los Angeles extends record road sizz, 106-99

May 19, 2002


— The pregame noise at Arco Arena was measured at more than 112 decibels about the same level as a jet engine. The Sacramento Kings think it was the loudest crowd in sports history.

The Los Angeles Lakers weren't listening.

Kobe Bryant scored 30 points, and Shaquille O'Neal had 26 as the Lakers extended the longest road playoff winning streak in NBA history to 12 games, beating the Sacramento Kings, 106-99, Saturday in the first game of the Western Conference finals.

"It was an interesting start," Rick Fox said. "They broke a record for the loudest crowd, and five minutes later, it was the quietest crowd."

Game Two in the best-of-seven series is Monday night.

With another poised performance in the face of crazed visiting fans, the Lakers brought some noise of their own with nine straight baskets leading to 36 points in the first quarter their most prolific quarter of the postseason.

The two-time champions never trailed, practically yawning at the crowd with a fast start and a coolly efficient finish to their 24th victory in 26 playoff games.

Shaq and Kobe are their signature stars, but the poise and maturity that both stars lacked earlier in their careers particularly on the road has become the Lakers' hallmark.

"We've been looking forward to getting back to this point," Bryant said. "We like the challenge of playing Sacramento and not having home-court advantage. It's going to force us to get back to the level we were at last season."

Bryant, who scored 84 points in the final two games of the Lakers' playoff sweep of Sacramento last season, had 10 points in the fourth as Los Angeles hung on to win the opener in the series widely expected to decide the league title.

Robert Horry had 18 points for the Lakers, who won for the sixth time in their last seven trips to Arco Arena despite the best efforts of their fans and a late rally by the Kings.

Sacramento cut it to 98-93 with two minutes left on a reverse layup by Bobby Jackson, who had 21 points. But O'Neal outmuscled two Kings and tipped a rebound to Horry for a dunk, and Bryant hit two free throws to bring calm to Arco.

"They just hit a hot run, and we never got back in it," Chris Webber said. "We didn't play Kings ball, and we still had a chance to win. It's a lesson."

Los Angeles hasn't lost a road playoff game since Game 5 of the 2000 NBA Finals one game before the Lakers won the first of their two straight titles.

Webber had 28 points and 14 rebounds for the Kings, who haven't been this deep in the postseason since 1981. Their nerves and the 19 fouls whistled against the Kings in the second half made the difference.

The Kings earned their first trip to the conference finals since the franchise was in Kansas City by beating Utah and Dallas with two very different styles of play. They must find a third style to contend with the Lakers, who showed their ability to run with the Kings, then later excel in their triangle offense.

"Maybe we were too pumped up, but they were also pumped up," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "We just let them beat us off the dribble so many times for open shots. They're awfully tough like that."

The Kings dearly missed All-Star Peja Stojakovic, who sat out his third straight game because of a sprained ankle. Hedo Turkoglu went 0-for-8 in Stojakovic's starting spot, and Sacramento couldn't find consistent outside shooting except from Mike Bibby, who had 19 points in another fine game.

"Something was missing," Turkoglu said. "It was me. I didn't do my job well."

Doug Christie had 13 points before fouling out against Bryant. Vlade Divac had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

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