Again, with feeling.
Except this time the Lakers were on the short side of things in a pairing with those pesky northerly neighbors.
The Lakers grappled in another end-to-end affair with the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, when an early turnstile defense led to a 114-113 loss at Staples Center in a game marked by its physicality and untidiness.
And, fittingly in such a game, it was ultimately settled at the free-throw line.
Beno Udrih capped off his team-high 25 points by making two free throws with 4.6 seconds to play to give Sacramento its slim winning margin.
The foul? On Sasha Vujacic, committed as he lay on the court.
"I reached, but I don't know if I fouled," Vujacic said. "I got pushed down. Probably, they didn't see it. I ended up on the floor and I was called for the foul."
The Lakers had a chance to win it, but Kobe Bryant, who attempted only two shots in the fourth quarter, was blanketed by John Salmons and Mikki Moore and missed a difficult fall-away jumper as time expired.
He ended with 26 points, shooting seven for 18 with five assists, but made only one of seven shots in the second half.
It prompted postgame questions about whether he was physically fit -- pinkie finger and all.
"I'm OK," he said. "The team just doubled me and got the ball out of my hands, and you know, I'm moving on."
The Lakers (44-19) moved on to their first home loss in seven games, in part by allowing Sacramento to shoot 55%. More significant was a missed opportunity to create separation atop the Western Conference, with the San Antonio Spurs having lost earlier Sunday.
"Well, they got us back for the win we took away from them up there in Sacramento" last Tuesday, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said. "They played a more physical game than we did [Sunday] and got us into turning the ball over early in the ballgame."
Beforehand, Jackson wondered if the Kings (28-35) could maintain their intensity from five days earlier, when the Lakers erased a late seven-point deficit to win.
"The last time we played them, there was still a possibility of the playoff hunt for them," Jackson said. "Now that window's kind of closed off a little bit with the [two] losses they've had since we played them and you wonder if they can bring the same intensity to the game."
He was not left wondering long. They matched it and then some.
Kevin Martin stayed hot, Ron Artest suddenly became healthy and the Kings, coming off losses to the lowly Clippers and Timberwolves, played inspired basketball.
Martin, coming off a career-high 48 points against Minnesota, had 21 points. Artest, who missed the last two games with an achy right foot, added 17.
"I told them, if you play hard against the Lakers tonight, you'll get your chance," Kings Coach Reggie Theus said.
The Lakers trailed by as many as 13 points in giving up a season-worst 71 first-half points, and trailed by 11 at the break.
The culprits? Turnovers (11 in the half, leading to 17 Kings points) and backdoor cuts resulting in easy layups.
The Lakers closed the gap with a 14-6 run to end the third quarter.
Pau Gasol scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter. His layup with 15.1 seconds remaining put the Lakers up, 113-112, their first lead since the first quarter.
And it was another physical game between the teams.
Bryant, Gasol, Moore and Brad Miller all received technical fouls. Bryant now has a total of 13. If he receives three more before the end of the regular season, he will automatically receive a one-game suspension from the league.
Instead of wrenching out another victory, the Lakers will have to wait until next month when they play the Kings twice more.
First comes a home game against Toronto on Tuesday, followed by what looks to be the toughest remaining portion of the schedule -- a four-game trip, all against West contenders, starting with the New Orleans Hornets (42-20). They then play the Houston Rockets (42-20), Dallas Mavericks (40-23) and Utah Jazz (42-22).
"In this race that's going on now, a slide, an injury, just taking a night off could be something that will hurt you later on," Jackson said.
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An old foe came back to stop the Lakers on Sunday night. Despite its 28-35 record, Sacramento has played the Lakers (44-19) tough in their two meetings this season:
*--* CATEGORY LAKERS KINGS Wins 1 1 Points 115.0 109.5 Rebounds 51.5 46.0 Assists 25.5 17.5 Field goal pct. 46.5 49.9 1st half scoring 56.5 64.5 2nd half scoring 58.5 45.0 Turnovers 17.5 17.0 *--*
A touch of Sacramento at Staples Center
"Just to give the Kings a taste of their own medicine, BK and I brought cowbells to clang from the press row. We expect to be ejected by halfway through the first, but it'll be worth it," Andrew Kamenetzky writes. To read more of the Lakers blog, go to lakersblog.latimes.com.