<
>

Lakers lead Kings wire to wire, take seventh in West

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Kwame Brown has taken a lot of heat from the
hometown fans and media in his first season with the Los Angeles
Lakers.

He heard only cheers Wednesday night.

Kobe Bryant scored six of his 28 points in the last three
minutes, Brown had a season-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, and the
Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings 87-80 to move into seventh place
in the Western Conference.

"He's been doing the defensive part all year long," Bryant
said. "Sometimes, the people want more. Tonight he gave them
more."

Lamar Odom had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and
Smush Parker scored 10 points for the Lakers (36-34), who never
trailed.

The Lakers lead Sacramento by one game, with New Orleans a
half-game behind the Kings in the battle for the eighth and final
playoff spot in the West. Utah is another 1½ games back.

The Lakers acquired the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Brown from the
Washington Wizards last summer to give them an inside presence. It
hasn't always worked out, especially on the offensive end, as Brown
entered averaging 6.1 points and 6.0 rebounds.

It worked out against the Kings.

"The guy's got the best body in the NBA," Odom said. "He's
got to throw it around a little bit."

The 24-year-old Brown has played in 60 of the Lakers' 70 games,
starting 37. With Chris Mihm sidelined indefinitely because of a
severely sprained right ankle, Brown is being called upon to play
increased minutes, with his 41 against the Kings a season high.

"Yeah, best all-around game, defense, rebounding and scoring,"
Brown said when asked to assess his performance. "I've just got to
keep being solid. I know I'm going to be in there. I can make a
mistake and recover from it -- just play good, sound basketball."

Ron Artest led Sacramento (34-34) with 18 points and 10
rebounds. Bonzi Wells added 15 points and nine rebounds, Shareef
Abdur-Rahim scored 14 points, Brad Miller had 12 points and 10
rebounds, and Mike Bibby scored 10 for the Kings.

Bibby, Sacramento's leading scorer with 21 points per game, sat
out most of the third quarter after a collision with Parker in the
opening minute of the period.

"We didn't set the tone and we got down big," said Kings coach
Rick Adelman, whose team trailed by 16 points entering the second
quarter. "I thought we had wide open shots, and we couldn't make
them. We stayed with it, but just got down too far, and they had a
nice level of comfort. We didn't play as well as we needed to play
to win this game."

With Bryant on the bench, the Kings scored the first six points
of the fourth quarter to draw within eight. But the Lakers
responded by going on a 9-2 run to make it 81-66 with 6½ minutes
left.

The Kings scored the next eight points -- four by Artest -- to
pull within seven with 3:32 remaining, and a follow dunk by Miller
with 1:02 left made it 85-80. But Bryant hit an off-balance jumper
from the left baseline as the shot clock was running down with 40
seconds to go, and after Artest missed a 3-pointer, the Lakers ran
out the clock.

"We won the last three quarters, we just couldn't finish the
job," Artest said.

The Lakers scored eight straight points for a 61-42 lead early
in the third quarter. The Kings responded with a 13-5 run to draw
within 11. It was 72-58 entering the final period.

Sasha Vujacic's 3-pointer with 5:03 to play in the second
quarter gave the Lakers a 44-24 lead. Bibby and Artest, the Kings'
leading scorers, had one point between them at that stage -- a foul
shot by Bibby.

Suddenly, the two got it going. Artest scored 10 points and
Bibby added four as the Kings outscored the Lakers 16-6 to draw
within 10 points before Bryant made a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds
left in the second quarter to give them a 53-40 halftime lead.

Game notes
The Lakers play nine of their final 12 regular-season games
at home. No other NBA team has fewer than six road games remaining
at this stage. The Kings have 14 games left -- seven at home, where
they're 23-11, and seven on the road, where they're 11-23. ... Mihm
missed his sixth game. Team spokesman John Black said Mihm is
slowly improving, but his return is weeks away. ... Adelman said
before the game that his team is as healthy now as its been all
year. "We're going to have to win some games on the road if we're
going to get in the playoffs," he said. To do so, the Kings will
have to play better than they did in this game. ... Lakers coach
Phil Jackson expressed confidence in his team. "I still believe
that we're going to make the playoffs," he said. "We've gotten
some help from other teams. We have to help ourselves now."