With just under a minute left in the game, Kobe Bryant walked towards the bench, a round of cheers and applause filled the arena. This was not the Arco Arena of old, with crowds jeering, cow bells ringing and Vlade Divac flopping. The heyday of the Lakers-Kings rivalry has passed and now, instead of yelling profanities at Bryant, MVP chants greet him at the free throw line.
On a night where he passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the most minutes played in Lakers history, Bryant also put up his 17th career triple double, which deserved every cheer and chant, even on the road. And for the rest of his team, it was just another productive day at the office, showing all the young and hungry interns how and what they can and should aspire to be – the cream of the crop.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Lakers arrived at the state capital on the tail end of election night, getting ready for their first back-to-back of the season against the young 3-1 Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers’ offense was seamless in the first quarter. They took an early 13-4 lead with Derek Fisher’s three-pointer, their third in the game at that point. Bryant was an active distributor, handing out 12 of the team’s 24 assists. He set up a beautiful backdoor lob for Pau Gasol (22 points on 7-15 and 11 rebounds, two assists). Then, to end the first half, Bryant rebounded a Kings’ miss and threw a long pass to Matt Barnes (nine points on 4-9, six rebounds, two assists) who laid it in at the buzzer to give the Lakers a 62-53 lead at the break.