The Kings had two spells in the fourth quarter where they made a real run at the Lakers: when Kobe Bryant was on the bench, and when Luther Head was guarding the former MVP. Head did a great job on Bryant, forcing difficult shots without fouling, something the other Kings who got an opportunity to check No. 24 -- Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi and Francisco Garcia -- simply couldn't do.
Since Head didn't get his shot until the fourth, Kobe ended up with a brilliant line: 30 points on 9-22 floor, 3-6 threes, 9-10 line, with 10 rebounds, 12 assists and just one turnover. He was, as he is in so many games against the Kings and, well, everyone else, the difference.
(Excuse me; my mouth is full of vomit, and I need to empty it, sterilize it and watch Tyreke give Matt Barnes vertigo again.)
The Kings did plenty right in the 112-100 loss, but the Lakers are too good right now for anything less than perfection from a team like Sacramento to beat them. And the Kings weren't perfect, especially on defense, where Kobe ran wild and L.A.'s starting five combined to go 10-15 from behind the arc. Part of that comes from the difficulty of guarding Pau Gasol in the post -- the Spaniard shredded DeMarcus Cousins early, requiring help to come down and freeing up the Lakers' wings. The rest came from Kobe setting up his teammates off the dribble -- Bryant has a way of sucking the defense into the paint, and, at least for this night, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest had ways to make the Kings pay.
Sacramento wasn't perfect on offense, either. Cousins shot just 3-13, missing two spot-up threes (plus an attempted buzzer-beater) in the process. It's unfortunate DMC floated out that far late in the game considering how well he assaulted Pau in the early going down on the block. Casspi also had a rough night on offense, hitting just 1-5 in 22 minutes. His playing time, however, was short for two reasons: he couldn't do anything with Kobe, he couldn't do anything with Artest, and Francisco Garcia was (again) paying out of his mind on offense.
Evans had an ankle scare after a first quarter-ending collision with Odom; he came back to score 15 more points for a total of 21. He hit one long jumper, but missed both threes (including one that could have cut the deficit to five midway through the fourth) and lived on the dribble-drive. The Kings were awful from long-range as a team (Garcia was 3-6, the rest of the team 3-16), and when that happens, Evans' assist totals fall off the table. He had just two in 29 minutes. (Why the short minutes? Foul trouble. Kobe got him rang up time after time. Evans had five late in the third.)
Jason Thompson was active and effective off the bench, especially on defense (where he showed well and challenged shots) and the boards (10 in 12 minutes). His offense wasn't there, and Carl Landry was sharp enough in the first half that J.T. really got lost in the rotation. Speaking of "lost in the rotation," Donte Greene, who last season guarded Kobe about as well as any King since Doug Christie guarded Kobe, didn't see a second of playing time, again.
Samuel Dalembert was also terrific, handling Gasol much better than Cousins had a chance to. Like Thompson, his offense wasn't there. Garcia, right now, reminds me of 2005-06 Kevin Martin -- the version who was behind Mike Bibby, Brad Miller, Bonzi Wells and Peja Stojakovic-then-Ron Artest in the pecking order, but scored in bunches quietly and efficiently. Of course, that Martin was 22 and this Garcia is 29; alas.
Jim Gray didn't work the game for Comcast, and I noticed Heather Cox on media row, so I assume Jim Gray didn't work the game for ESPN. (Correct me if I'm wrong, as I didn't watch the ESPN telecast.) Of all games for Jim Gray not to work, the Lakers' first visit is an odd choice. I bet the team's last sideline reporter wouldn't have had a scheduling conflict. And it would have been cool to get an injury update on Evans a bit before he re-entered the game. That's what sideline reporters are for.