Lakers own road, noisy Arco included


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- 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

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.

Game 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.