Published March 03, 2012
LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant scored 38 points in his second straight big game in a protective mask, and the Los Angeles Lakers blew most of a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding on to beat the Sacramento Kings 115-107 Friday night in their highest-scoring performance of the season.
Andrew Bynum had 19 points and 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who improved to 16-1 at home since losing their season opener on Christmas. Pau Gasol added 15 points, and Metta World Peace scored eight of his 15 points in the final 5 minutes when the Lakers finally countered a lengthy rally by Sacramento's reserves.
Francisco Garcia scored 18 points to lead seven Kings in double figures in their eighth loss in 10 games.
After Sacramento trailed 94-74 early in the fourth quarter, the reserves scored 11 consecutive points during a 21-6 run that trimmed the Lakers' lead to 100-95 on Jimmer Fredette's 3-pointer with 5 minutes to play.
But World Peace and Bryant both hit key 3-pointers down the stretch to counteract big baskets by Fredette. The rookie scored all 12 of his points in the fourth quarter, while John Salmons had eight of his 12 in the final period.
Marcus Thornton scored 15 points for the Kings, who have lost two straight since California's capital city announced its financing plan for a $391 million downtown arena to replace Arco Arena.
Bryant warmed up for the Miami Heat's visit on Sunday with eight rebounds and three assists in his second game since Dwyane Wade broke his nose and gave him a concussion with a hard foul in the All-Star game.
Two nights after scoring 31 points in a win over Minnesota in his first game in the mask, Bryant had 31 points through three quarters against the defense-deficient Kings. The NBA's leading scorer had 20 points in the first half, but didn't score in the fourth until hitting a rally-killing 3-pointer with 2:43 to play.
Bryant is sticking with his clear plastic mask until his nose is less tender, although he says the protection feels like "a sauna on my face."
The mask hasn't affected his vision or his shooting stroke: He's 20 for 24 on free throws since donning the mask, even though he banked in his last foul shot with 9.5 seconds left.
The Lakers have had trouble with their upstate rivals in recent months, starting with Sacramento's 100-95 win at Staples Center in January 2011 to snap a six-game skid in the series. The Kings then beat the Lakers at home on Dec. 26, sending Los Angeles off to a 0-2 start to the season.
Notes: Before the game, Sacramento announced forward J.J. Hickson will miss the next three games to rest a bruised hip. The fourth-year backup was hurt during the Kings' loss to the Clippers earlier this week. ... Derek Fisher got a technical foul for arguing a foul called against him after Isaiah Thomas hit him in the head with his elbow and then pulled Fisher down to the court in the third quarter. ... Eddie Murphy watched the game from courtside.