Kings can't complete comeback vs. Kobe, Lakers

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Kings can't complete comeback vs. Kobe, Lakers

BOX SCORE
LOS ANGELES (AP) With a 20-point lead over lowly Sacramento in the fourth quarter, perhaps the Los Angeles Lakers started thinking 36 hours ahead to a visit from the Miami Heat.The Kings capitalized on that wandering focus for an impressive comeback until the Masked Mamba finished them off.Kobe Bryant scored 38 points in his second straight big game in a protective mask, and the Lakers blew most of a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding on to beat Sacramento 115-107 Friday night in their highest-scoring performance of the season.Bryant warmed up for Miami's Sunday afternoon visit with eight rebounds, three assists and 13-for-24 shooting in his second game since Dwyane Wade gave him a concussion and a nasal fracture with a hard foul in the All-Star game.Kobe wasn't thinking about the guy who broke his nose while making sure the Lakers didn't stub their toes against Sacramento."We played well, (but) we didn't come in with the right sense of urgency and focus in the fourth quarter, and it almost cost us," Bryant said.Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who improved to 16-1 at home since losing their season opener on Christmas. Pau Gasol added 15 points, and Metta World Peace scored eight of his 15 points in the final 5 minutes when the Lakers finally countered a lengthy rally by Sacramento's reserves."We were doing good things offensively," Gasol said before recalling the Lakers' similar fourth-quarter woes two nights earlier against Minnesota. "But the last two games, we got such a big lead, we stopped doing the things that got us such a big lead. Against Miami, we can't afford to let up at any time."Francisco Garcia scored 18 points to lead seven Kings in double figures in their eighth loss in 10 games.After Sacramento trailed 94-74 early in the fourth quarter, its reserves scored 11 consecutive points during a 21-6 run that trimmed the Lakers' lead to 100-95 on Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer with 5 minutes to play."It was a great confidence-builder for myself, but ultimately we wanted to win the game," said Fredette, who scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter. "We were coming back, and we had a few things that didn't go our way, and a couple of shots that didn't go down that could have put us really close."World Peace and Bryant both hit key 3-pointers down the stretch to counteract big baskets by Fredette and John Salmons, who had eight of his 12 in the final period.Marcus Thornton scored 15 points for the Kings, who have lost two straight since California's capital city announced its financing plan for a 391 million downtown arena to replace Arco Arena. Sacramento couldn't keep up with the Lakers despite committing just five turnovers, their fewest in a game since Dec. 1, 2007."These guys could have folded and said, It's over, we're going to roll over,'" Sacramento coach Keith Smart said. "But they played hard and got themselves back in the game, and that's why this group is going to be OK. This group is going to come around as we continue to get familiar with each other, and they're going to play hard every single night."Two nights after scoring 31 points in a win over Minnesota in his first game in the mask, Bryant had 31 points through three quarters against the defense-deficient Kings. The NBA's leading scorer had 20 points in the first half, but didn't score in the fourth until hitting a rally-killing 3-pointer with 2:43 to play.Bryant is sticking with his clear plastic mask until his nose is less tender, although he says the protection feels like "a sauna on my face."The mask hasn't affected his vision or his shooting stroke: He's 20 for 24 on free throws since donning the mask, even though he banked in his last foul shot with 9.5 seconds left."The mask felt fine," Bryant said. "It felt fine last game, it felt fine tonight."The Lakers have had trouble with their upstate rivals in recent months, starting with Sacramento's 100-95 win at Staples Center in January 2011 to snap a six-game skid in the series. The Kings then beat the Lakers at home on Dec. 26 while Bynum served a suspension, sending Los Angeles off to a 0-2 start to the season.Notes: Before the game, Sacramento announced forward J.J. Hickson will miss the next three games to rest a bruised hip. The fourth-year backup was hurt during the Kings' loss to the Clippers earlier this week. ... Derek Fisher got a technical foul for arguing a foul called against him after Isaiah Thomas hit him in the head with his elbow and then pulled Fisher down to the court in the third quarter. ... Eddie Murphy watched the game from courtside.

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

Instant Replay: Second quarter kills Kings in loss to T'Wolves

BOX SCORE

SACRAMENTO -- Adjusting to life without DeMarcus Cousins is proving more difficult than the Kings thought. For the second straight game, Sacramento struggled to score the ball, falling to the Minnesota Timberwolves by a final of 102-88 Monday night at Golden 1 Center.

Karl-Anthony Towns continued his strong play. The second-year big is quickly becoming one of the best bigs in the game and at age 21, the sky's the limit. Towns dropped in 29 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked three shots as the Timberwolves improved to 24-36 on the season.

Andrew Wiggins had a big night as well. He got off to a slow start, but once he started playing the passing lanes it opened up everything for Minnesota. The talented 22-year-old finished the night with 27 points on 10-for-22 shooting and added four steals.

Ricky Rubio chipped in nine points and dished out 11 assists. Nemanja Bjelica added 10 points and 12 rebounds in the win.

Kosta Koufos overpowered the Timberwolves in the post. The Kings starting center scored 14 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.

Ben McLemore drew the tough assignment of guarding Wiggins and held his own early. But once the high-flying wing got going, McLemore had no answer. On the offensive end, he finished the night with 14 points on 5-for-10 shooting.

Willie Cauley-Stein scored 14 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished out five assists. Ty Lawson went for 11 points and nine assists, while Tyreke Evans picked it up late, scoring 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting.

STANDOUT PERFORMER:
Wiggins and Towns put on a show. Give these two a couple of seasons and they might be the best duo in the game.

TURNING POINT:
The Kings looked completely lost in the second quarter and the Timberwolves ran them off the floor. After a competitive first 12 minutes of action, Minnesota outscored Sacramento 40-19 in the quarter to take a 60-44 lead into the intermission. Game over.

INJURY UPDATE:
Arron Afflalo missed his third straight game with a sore hamstring. Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson sat again with varying degrees of hamstring issues. Temple is out for another few games with a left hamstring tear and rookie Richardson is out 4-6 weeks with a right hamstring thickness tear, but hopes to return before the season is finished. Rudy Gay is out for the year with a torn left Achilles.

WHAT'S NEXT:
The Kings continue their homestand Wednesday when the Brooklyn Nets swing by Golden 1 Center.

 

1-on-1 with Cauley-Stein: Finally having a good time in Sacramento

1-on-1 with Cauley-Stein: Finally having a good time in Sacramento

SACRAMENTO -- Anointing Willie Cauley-Stein as the savior of the Sacramento Kings is a mistake. One player cannot replace the incredible impact on the floor of the departed DeMarcus Cousins. Placing that type of pressure on a young player can do more damage than good.

The second-year big man came out hot in the team’s first game without Cousins, scoring a career-high 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He backed that up by struggling against the Charlotte Hornets, posting just two points and two rebounds as Steve Clifford had his club clog the middle and take away the pick-and-roll.

Cauley-Stein is neither the superstar that sunk the Denver Nuggets, nor the player that struggled against the Hornets. He is somewhere in between and the Kentucky product has plenty of time to carve out his own path.

It will take a team effort to replace Cousins and even then, Sacramento will have to add more pieces in the offseason. For now, Cauley-Stein will get an opportunity to earn his paycheck. There are plenty of minutes of the 23-year-old 7-footer who sat down with CSN California this week to discuss his increased role with the Kings.

JH: What has this experience been for you, not only getting 35 minutes, but getting 22 shots attempts, How big is this opportunity for you?

WCS: It’s brand new, but it’s what you want, you know. It’s a situation you want to come to. Now it’s just all about believing - believing it’s consistent. Staying in an assassin's mind frame of just, come in, do your dirt and get out and hopefully you can compete enough to get the win. I can’t stress enough about how I’ve just got to be locked in, because I want that, I want this, I want this opportunity, I want to capitalize on it. (I want to) start getting some clout in the league.

JH: You’ve been known as a defensive-minded player your entire college career. How do you change people's mind and make them see that you can be something different?

WCS: You know, you never will, you never will. People want to see you how they want you. And I went a few years now trying to change people’s perception of what they think you should be. It’s what you want to be. I no longer care about what my critics say. How are they going to tell me what my game is and what I work on and what I don’t work on? You’ve just got to believe in your work, believe in your path. At this point, I’m really in-tune to what I’m trying to do.

JH: Does it help you that you’re surrounded by young players, as well as veterans? With these young players, you’re on the same path and the veterans are there to support you.

WCS: It’s great because, you know, being a young guy and getting to play with guys that you’re in a platoon with and you grind with everyday - it’s special, because you see each others work get put on the big stage. It’s cool to see the success start to happen, because it’s bad when you’re grinding, you’re grinding, you’re grinding and nothing’s happening and you’re just grinding. And then you finally get that break and then it’s like those three months you were going through while you were grinding, it’s like they don’t even exist in your head anymore and it’s wild once you get just a lick of success.

JH: I’ve seen you in the past not aggressively attacking the glass. And now we see you hammering these putbacks. Everything at the rim is aggressive and forceful. When did the light switch get hit for you? Now you’re just attacking.

WCS: That’s just what they ask me to do. Before, I had a backburner role. So playing 15 minutes, you’ve got to really good to get double-digit boards, especially when your scouter is saying - “don’t let him get boards, the only thing in this game he is going to do is get boards.” That’s just the way it was set up for us to do and now the scouting report has just gotten so much bigger, it’s like, you can’t take away all my strengths and that’s where it becomes big.

JH: Again, you came into the league as a defensive player, but you’ve had some struggles there as well. Do you think that’s going to come to you now that the aggression is there, you’re in the mix, you’re getting longer stretches to read people and know their tendencies?

WCS: For sure, definitely by just being aggressive, it’s going to come. At this point, a lot of our success is going to depend on how I’m playing. So if I stay at least consistent on defense like that, then there’s no problems if you’re not giving up anything. I’m blessed, I can do that.

JH: Are you having a good time?

WCS: (smiling) Finally, yeah, yeah I am.

JH: Does that have to do with the opportunity or does it have to do with the change in culture and the change in atmosphere around here?

WCS: It’s the change in everything and getting to be a part of it - a big part of it. It’s cool just to feel that love and that support from our upper management and the rest of our team, so that’s special, which is also going to fuel me on the floor. It’s a double-win.