SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Marcus Thornton scored 23 points, Tyreke Evans had 18 and the Sacramento Kings snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the lethargic Los Angeles Lakers 113-97 on Wednesday night.
Jason Thompson added 13 points and 10 rebounds to help the Kings take a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter and cement the latest Lakers setback. Los Angeles had won three straight and seemed to be turning things around under new coach Mike D’Antoni.
Instead, the Lakers looked lost and listless against the Western Conference’s worst team, showing all the same problems that got Mike Brown fired.
Kobe Bryant scored 38 points on 11-of-20 shooting and Jodie Meeks had 15 points off the bench as D’Antoni lost for the first time on the Lakers bench. A night after beating Brooklyn in Los Angeles, the Lakers might’ve been bad enough to give D’Antoni a headache to go with the pain from his surgically replaced knee.
Bryant tried to will his tired team back late.
After the Lakers went down by 10 points early in the fourth quarter, he converted a three-point play over DeMarcus Cousins that sliced Sacramento’s lead to 96-92 with 3:06 remaining. Thornton thwarted the rally in a hurry, swishing a 3-pointer from the top of the key on the next possession.
Officials whistled Pau Gasol for a flagrant foul when he swatted Thompson in the face going for a rebound. Thompson made one of two free throws, Cousins added a pair of driving layups and a free throw to put Kings ahead 105-93, with the home fans chanting “Beat L-A! Beat L-A!”
Though point guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake are expected to be out with injuries for at least another two games, the limited Lakers talent was hardly an excuse in this matchup.
The Lakers held Sacramento to 31 percent shooting in the first quarter. Kings big man Chuck Hayes also had to go back to the locker room to receive stitches after he was cut around his right eye and had blood dripping down his cheek, and yet Los Angeles still only led by six.
Sacramento surged ahead 26-21 behind an 11-0 run to start the second quarter that Thornton capped with a 3-pointer and running layup. Bryant returned and made back-to-back 3s — the second in the face of pressure from rookie Thomas Robinson — to quiet the Kings crowd, except for an increasing sprinkle of purple-and-gold clad fans.
Aaron Brooks started another Sacramento spurt when he floated an underhand layup over Dwight Howard and drew a foul for a three-point play on the new Lakers center, who tumbled hard into a row of photographers under the baseline. Brooks added a jumper and a 3-pointer to highlight the 17-5 run that put the Kings ahead 69-58 late in the third quarter.
D’Antoni kept yelling and motioning for the Lakers to sprint up court to match Sacramento’s speed. Instead, they often kept the pace at a slow crawl.
After the Lakers closed within a point, James Johnson made three straight layups during an 11-2 run that put the Kings ahead 88-78 early in the fourth quarter. D’Antoni called a timeout in the middle of Sacramento’s spurt to put his starters back in the game and give his listless Lakers a chance to refocus.
No chance for that now.
D’Antoni’s knee — and the Lakers mettle — will be tested even more. Los Angeles plays at Memphis on Friday and at Dallas on Saturday to complete a quick three-game trip.
NOTES: The Kings won all three preseason games against the Lakers. The series is 1-1 in the regular season, with the home team winning each time. … Howard made 3 of 4 free throws after going 7 for 19 from the line a night earlier against Brooklyn. His first attempts came with 7:07 remaining in the fourth quarter.