Posted April 27, 2012 on
AP on Fox
Los Angeles Lakers
Oklahoma City Thunder
DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points and 19 rebounds, Tyreke Evans scored 17 points and the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers' backups 113-96 Thursday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Kobe Bryant sat out along with four other Lakers' starters, conceding the NBA scoring title to Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant. He needed 38 points to boost his average above Durant's 28 points per game.
Instead, Bryant decided to rest up for another championship chase. Los Angeles opens its first-round playoff series Sunday at home against Denver.
Sacramento finished 22-44 in the lockout-shortened season. At the very least, Kings fans have the promise of the franchise staying in the city next year - but nothing more.
The atmosphere in Sacramento had a remarkably different feel than last season's Lakers-Kings finale.
At that game on April 13, 2011, the Kings seemed destine to relocate to Anaheim. Many fans, arena workers and team personnel cried. A few thousand stayed in protest - shouting ''Here we stay!'' - for almost an hour after the game, and players returned to the floor to thank them all in what felt like goodbye.
In many ways, little else has changed.
The Maloof family that owns the Kings backed out of a tentative $391 million deal for a new arena with the city. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the owners are again talking, with another meeting scheduled Friday, but the future offers no guarantee.
Brothers George and Joe Maloof sat courtside for the finale instead of leaving the seats to Lakers fans as the family did a year ago. Johnson sat across from the visitor's bench, and it was an otherwise normal night from the announced crowd of 16,281.
While the doom and gloom of the town's only professional team leaving has somewhat subsided with the Kings promising to stay next season, it still lingers until a deal is signed and a new arena is constructed.
The Lakers are in quite a different mix.
Phil Jackson is gone, and Mike Brown is ready for his first playoff run as Los Angeles' coach. With a roster recovering from injuries and Metta World Peace serving the first of his seven-game suspension for elbowing Thunder guard James Harden in the head, nobody quite knows what to expect in the postseason from this Lakers lineup.
The second string they sent out in Sacramento had no chance.
Josh McRoberts had 16 points and nine rebounds and Ramon Sessions scored 14 to lead Los Angeles, also playing without Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in game that was never close - or contested.
Sacramento led 35-21 in the final seconds of the first quarter until Sessions - the only regular Lakers starter in the lineup - swished a 3-pointer in front of a charging Jimmer Fredette. The Kings built a 56-39 lead in the second quarter during a spurt highlighted by Terrence Williams' one-handed slam over Jordan Hill, and the rest was a formality.
And exactly why Bryant decided to rest.
Bryant, who missed seven games with a bruised left shin before playing the previous two, averaged 27.9 points per game while playing 58 games this season. Durant won the scoring title for the third straight year while playing all 66 contests, capping the regular season with 32 points in a win over the Kings a night earlier that forced Bryant to respond big in Sacramento.
Already an NBA MVP, two-time scoring champion and winner of five NBA titles, Bryant has bigger goals to chase at age 33.
That time starts Sunday.
NOTES: Lakers F Matt Barnes (sprained right ankle) also sat out. Brown said he wasn't sure Barnes would be ready for the playoff opener. ... Kings veteran John Salmons missed his 15th straight game with sore hip.
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