SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Sacramento Kings fans made it feel like old times.
Then, so did Kobe Bryant.
Bryant’s tying 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left in regulation forced overtime, and the Los Angeles Lakers regrouped to hand Sacramento a 116-108 loss Wednesday night in what might have been the Kings’ last game ever in Sacramento.
“We’re proud of the way we represented this city and this area,” said Kings coach Paul Westphal, who got choked up in his postgame news conference. “We don’t know if we’ll continue doing that or playing somewhere else. We really felt it tonight. We know that through the ups and downs, these fans supported us. We think we’re ending one of those down times.
“I’m sorry to see the season end.”
A standing-room only crowd packed things beyond the 17,317-seat capacity, clanking cow bells and roaring louder than they had in years. They brought handmade signs, painted their faces and cheered their loudest to will their beloved team back.
And they nearly did.
Instead, the Lakers pulled away in overtime to earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. They will play the New Orleans Hornets in the first round.
Marcus Thornton had 33 points and Tyreke Evans added 19 to help the Kings outscore the Lakers 29-11 in the fourth quarter to rally from 20 points down. They went ahead by three until the final seconds, when Bryant delivered a shot to crush Sacramento’s hopes yet again.
Fans stood for almost the entire fourth quarter and overtime as the Kings nearly capped an improbable rally. Jason Thompson’s dunk with 1:22 remaining in the fourth gave the Kings their first lead of the half, and it would be a brief one.
After Bryant’s shot forced overtime, the Lakers easily controlled overtime. They sprinted out to a six-point lead and never trailed in the extra session.
Bryant finished with 36 points and Lamar Odom scored 22 points for the Lakers. Kings fans still kept things peaceful and cheered their team until the end.
When the final buzzer sounded, many refused to even leave their seats. Some cheered “Here We Seat!” while others took pictures. Most, though, simply stood stoically, glancing around the arena.
Players quickly exited to the locker room, high-fiving fans heading as they went into the arena’s tunnel. Donte Greene returned briefly to take a few pictures and sign autographs. The Kings’ dance team stood at halfcourt, hugging, crying, and saying goodbye.
Maybe for the last time.
“I really feel for these fans,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “I’m sure it’s a sad, sad day for many.”
Leave it to the Lakers to deliver so much torment.
When the Kings had an NBA-best 61 wins in the 2001-02 regular season, the Lakers eliminated them—in an epic Game 7 in Sacramento, no less—that started the long, hard fall for this franchise. The Kings failed to recover from the end of the Chris Webber-Vlade Divac days, attendance dwindled and their outdated arena continued to age.
After years of political bickering and failed ballot measures to build a new arena, Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof started seeking other options. Now it seems the only thing stopping them from moving the franchise to Anaheim is a block by NBA owners.
The Maloofs are scheduled to make a pitch at the NBA Board of Governors meeting that begins Thursday in New York. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson—a former NBA All-Star—and Anaheim officials also will attend.
The Maloofs have until Monday to officially file for permission to relocate, and a vote would likely come within weeks of that request.
NOTES: The Kings played a video before the game to show the season’s highlights. … Lakers center Andrew Bynum (hypextended right knee) and reserves Matt Barnes (sore right knee) and Steve Blake (chicken pox) did not play. They will be re-evaluated this week along with Bynum, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. … Extra security, including bomb-sniffing dogs, roamed the arena during the game.
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