Lakers silence loud Kings crowd

Posted: Sunday, May 19, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- 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 2 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.

The Lakers cruised through the first two rounds, losing just once despite rarely getting their game together until the fourth quarter. This time, they didn't wait: Los Angeles made nine of its first 10 shots and jumped to a 13-point lead before the echoes of the pregame noise had even died down.

''There was freedom to our game, and it looked like they were playing with a bit more pressure on them,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. ''We were able to step right into our game from the start ... and it took them a while.''

The Lakers shot 67 percent, hit three 3-pointers, forced five turnovers and scored 36 points in the first 12 minutes -- their biggest quarter of the postseason. Bryant capped it with a steal and a flying dunk with 3.5 seconds left.

Los Angeles kept it up, taking a 58-45 lead to the locker room after its most prolific half of the postseason. Horry, whose inconsistency was one of Los Angeles' only problems in the first two rounds, hit several big shots and also hounded Webber into several misses on defense.

Notes: When Bryant went to a late screening of the new ''Star Wars'' movie Friday night, he had a long conversation with a Kings fan who didn't know who he was. She told Bryant she was superstitious, and she didn't want to ''jinx'' the Kings by doing anything to ruin their chances. ''I said, 'You'd be surprised what you can do,''' Bryant said, grinning. ... Lakers reserve Devean George went 4-for-5, scoring nine points. ... Kings rookie Gerald Wallace, who played nine minutes in the first two rounds, got five minutes in the second quarter. He blocked a shot by O'Neal and scored two points. ... Fans arrived at Arco several hours before tipoff and participated in all manner of pregame entertainment, including a sausage-eating contest. The sausages, made by a local meatpacker, were purple.

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