Lakers outlast Kings, 106-100
LOS ANGELES – Considering the Los Angeles Lakers’ only remaining goal in the regular season is to avoid adding more players to their lengthy injury list, their final home victory wasn’t much of a success.
And while Jordan Farmar could be a problem with his strained hamstring, Pau Gasol is just grateful he didn’t turn into another.
Gasol had 28 points and eight rebounds, Shannon Brown scored 24 points and Kobe Bryant rested as the Lakers hung on for a 106-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.
Sasha Vujacic scored 13 points for the Lakers, who lost six of nine before Gasol and the reserves pulled away in the second half of their sixth straight win over the Kings, their formerly fierce Pacific Division rivals.
Yet the Western Conference’s top playoff seed didn’t emerge unscathed from a meaningless game against the 14th-place team. Farmar, the backup guard who regularly plays key minutes, strained his left hamstring in the first half, and the Lakers don’t know the injury’s severity.
Gasol didn’t get hurt while playing just 33 minutes, but the Kings forced coach Phil Jackson to put his star Spaniard back in the game on cooled-down legs to hold off a late rally. The Kings got within four points late before Brown’s jumper with 28 seconds to play.
“I was hoping we could put a run together in the fourth quarter so I wouldn’t have to go back in,” Gasol said. “We feel pretty good about what we’ve done, though. We don’t like the injuries and all, but hopefully (Farmar’s leg) won’t be too bad.”
The Lakers didn’t even take a chance with Bryant, who sat out to rest his litany of injuries, including a sprained ankle and a broken finger. Center Andrew Bynum missed his 12th straight game with a strained Achilles’ tendon. Both starters should be ready to play this weekend when the top-seeded Lakers open defense of their NBA title.
“It’s fun to play against a team that’s playing so loose out there, but we’re just trying to fine-tune it and get ready for what’s coming up,” said Brown, who’s dealing with a sprained right thumb that limits his dunking abilities.
After wrapping up the regular season Wednesday night on the Clippers’ red-and-blue court, the Lakers are expected to open the playoffs Sunday against Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Tyreke Evans scored 10 points before his remarkable rookie season ended with a third-quarter ejection as the Kings wrapped up their fourth straight losing season with their 11th defeat in 12 games.
Beno Udrih scored 21 points and Jason Thompson had 19 points and 16 rebounds as the Kings finished 25-57, an eight-win improvement on last season’s NBA-worst team. Sacramento will have another strong shot at a top-five draft pick a year after dropping to fourth in last year’s lottery.
“Honestly, I’m sorry it’s over,” first-year coach Paul Westphal said. “I really like this team. We knew that we had a hill to climb, and the journey is just beginning. We added eight more wins and added some players we can build around, so by any measure, there was improvement. The first thing is that we had to compete this year. We did that, and one of these days, we’ll learn how to win.”
Evans was tossed in the third quarter by referee Derek Richardson, who whistled back-to-back technical fouls when Evans apparently said something unsavory to him. Evans had just hit consecutive layups to pull Sacramento within 67-66, and apparently was angry about a foul not being called.
Evans is the leading candidate for the NBA’s rookie of the year award, entering the game averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists. Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are the only other NBA rookies to average a 20-5-5.
Evans had 10 points, three assists and one rebound before his ejection. Sacramento finished 7-34 on the road, losing eight of its last nine away from Arco Arena.
“I think we just need to play together a little bit more,” said Carl Landry, a midseason acquisition in the trade sending Kevin Martin to Houston. “We’ve got the pieces here, and I’m sure we’ll add a couple more with free agents and the draft. I think we’re the second-youngest team in the league, so once we improve our basketball I.Q., get used to the league and learn the things to do and not to do, I think we’ll be all right.”
NOTES: The Lakers remain optimistic Bynum will be back for the playoff opener. The 7-foot center, who was hurt in late March, is expected to practice Friday and Saturday after running on a treadmill two days in a row. … Ron Artest is finishing the regular season as just another California blond: The Lakers’ attention-seeking forward and reserve center DJ Mbenga dyed their hair dark yellow. Coach Phil Jackson said Artest and Mbenga were getting plenty of grief from their teammates for their dye jobs. … Vujacic hit buzzer-beating jumpers after the first and third quarters. … Brown had the fourth 20-point game of his career.
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