Kings beat resting Lakers 113-96 in season finale

Associated Press Modified: April 27, 2012 at 1:01 am •  Published: April 27, 2012
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kobe Bryant skipped a chance to win an NBA scoring title and thought nothing of it.

The Lakers' star sat on the visitor's bench during Sacramento's meaningless 113-96 victory over Los Angeles in Thursday night's regular-season finale dressed in a sharp grey suit and tie. Even if he wanted to prevent Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant from leading the league in scoring for the third straight year — and Bryant swears he didn't — he knew he couldn't try.

After all, there's a championship to chase.

"You have to send that message," Bryant said after the game. "That's what this season is about. That's what we're about as a team. It's not about the individual goals. You have to put the team goals ahead of it."

Bryant sat out along with four other Lakers' starters, conceding the scoring title to Durant. He needed 38 points to boost his average above Durant's 28 points per game.

The only thing Los Angeles is looking at is its first-round playoff series against Denver. The Lakers open the best-of-seven series Sunday at Staples Center.

"There was no question in his mind. Not one time did he ever hint to me that he was going to play," Lakers coach Mike Brown said of Bryant, lauding the sacrifice by the team leader. "I know that there was a lot of speculation and a lot of hype about it and all that stuff. It's just who he is. A lot of people are wrong with it. He thinks it's best for him and best for the team."

DeMarcus Cousins had 23 points and 19 rebounds and Tyreke Evans scored 17 points for the Kings against the Lakers' backups. Sacramentio 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.

"We obviously didn't have a lot of purpose there, but we're still going to do things that we need to do as a basketball team and I thought our guys did that," said Kings coach Keith Smart, who replaced the fired Paul Westphal after a 2-5 start and already has had his contract extended for next season.

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.

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