Thursday , Feb , 26 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Pacific Division’s elite meet in LA

Los Angeles, CA (Sports Network) – The Los Angeles Lakers try to move a
little closer in the Pacific Division tonight, as they try to extend their
winning streak to six games when they welcome the Sacramento Kings to the
Staples Center.

The Lakers’ latest win came in dramatic fashion on Wednesday when Kareem
Rush drained a three-pointer with 3.2 seconds remaining to lift Los Angeles
to a 112-111 win over the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

Kobe Bryant ended with 35 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the
Lakers, who now trail the Kings by five games in the Pacific. Shaquille
O’Neal added 16 points and eight boards while Gary Payton chipped in 14
points and eight assists in the win.

Los Angeles was down by 13 midway through the final stanza, but used a
furious rally, including a 11-0 spurt, to get back in the contest. However,
Denver then pulled away again before a 7-2 run by the Lakers pulled them
within 111-109 with 52.6 seconds remaining. Carmelo Anthony had a chance to
increase the Nuggets’ lead, but O’Neal blocked the ball out of bounds with
29.9 seconds left.

On the inbounds pass, though, Andre Miller threw up a shot that hit the side
of the rim and was grabbed by Anthony. However, one official inadvertently
blew the whistle thinking the ball would not hit the rim and cause a
shot-clock violation.

Due to the inadvertent whistle, the referees had a jump ball at mid-court in
which O’Neal won. Los Angeles then ran the clock down and Rush buried a
three- pointer from the left wing with 3.2 seconds left to make it 112-111.

A win tonight would give Los Angeles its first six-game run since a 10-game
tear from November 19-December 9.

Bryant has been on fire since the All-Star break and has been the main
catalyst behind LA’s most recent tear. In his five games since the break, he
has averaged 33.8 points, eight assists, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals and is
shooting 60-percent from the floor in that span.

The Lakers, who will hit the road for four games following tonight’s tilt,
have won eight of 10 and 10 of their last 13 home games and are 22-4 at home
this season.

Sacramento, meanwhile, comes into tonight’s contest on a winning note after
Mike Bibby finished with 28 points, six rebounds and five assists in the
Kings’ 107-99 win over the New York Knicks on Tuesday at ARCO Arena.

Peja Stojakovic notched 27 points for the Kings, who earned their third
straight victory and seventh in their last eight games. Darius Songaila
contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds in the victory.

With the win, the Kings stretched their NBA-record home winning streak
against the Eastern Conference to 29 games,

Sacramento was again without All-Star center Brad Miller, who missed his
fifth straight game with an ankle injury he sustained in the All-Star game.
Miller is not expected to play tonight.

Sacramento has won seven of eight and 10 of its last 13 road games and is
16-10 away from home this season.

The Kings defeated the Lakers earlier in the year, but have lost three of
four, six of eight and 11 of their last 14 as the visitors in this series.