Lakers point guard Steve Nash tries to cut off a drive by Kings point guard… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)
Lakers 103, Kings 98 (final)
The Lakers held on in a must-win game, defeating the Sacramento Kings, 103-98, on Saturday night. With the Utah Jazz (38-36) and Dallas Mavericks (36-37) getting wins on Saturday, the Lakers badly needed the road victory to stay in the thick of the playoff chase.
Dwight Howard scored 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting while getting 15 rebounds and blocking five shots.
Kobe Bryant, who passed Wilt Chamberlain to become the NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer, dished 14 assists and had only one turnover. Bryant finished with 19 points on 5-of-18 shooting, playing through a painful bone spur in his left foot to log more than 47 1 /2 minutes in the game.
The Kings had six double-digit scorers, led by Tyreke Evans with 21 points. DeMarcus Cousins scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds but took a pair of late three-point attempts that didn't fall. The first was a good look, blocked by Howard, in what could have been called a foul. The second was an ill-advised attempt that took Sacramento out of the game.
Steve Nash played less than two minutes, leaving with a strained hamstring. Steve Blake played 32 minutes, hitting five three-pointers for 15 points. Pau Gasol scored 12 points with 10 assists without a turnover.
The Lakers improve to 38-36, tied with the Jazz but only good for ninth place by virtue of the head-to-head tiebreaker goin to Utah. Sacramento falls to 27-47.
Lakers 82, Kings 75 (end of third quarter)
The Lakers played some of their most energetic basketball in some time, outscoring the Kings by 11 points, 29-18, in the third quarter.
With Steve Nash out because of a hamstring strain, Kobe Bryant took over as de facto point guard, dishing 11 assists with only one turnover. He also scored 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Pau Gasol had eight assists without a turnover. Bryant and Gasol have ccombined for 18 of the Lakers' 22 assists in the game.
All five Sacramento starters were in double figures, led by Jason Thompson and Tyreke Evans with 15 points apiece.
Kings 57, Lakers 53 (halftime)
Kobe Bryant became the NBA's fourth all-time leading scorer, eclipsing Wilt Chamberlain's 31,421 points in the second quarter on a jump shot against the Kings.
The Lakers erased a 12-point deficit in the first quarter, taking their first lead at 51-50. The Kings finished the quarter with a three-pointer by Isaiah Thomas to finish the half ahead by four points.
John Salmons led all scorers with 13 points. After shooting 71.4% from the field in the first quarter, the Kings fell to 51.1% for the first half.
The Lakers were led by 11 points from Dwight Howard, who shot 5 of 6 from the field but only 1 of 6 from the free-throw line.
Bryant made only 3 of 10 shots from the field for 10 points as the Lakers shot 52.6%.
Kings 37, Lakers 25 (end of first quarter)
The Lakers fell behind big against the Kings in Sacramento on Saturday night.
Jason Thompson led all scorers with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting as the Kings shot 71.4% from the field, including 80% from three-point range.
Dwight Howard had eightpoints for the Lakers, who shot 55% from the field. The issue for the Lakers was a general inability to defend the Kings.
Steve Nash left the game less than two minutes in with a strained hamstring. He won't return.
Kobe Bryant, four points shy of catching Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA scoring list at 31,419, didn't score in the first quarter.
The Lakers (37-36) visit the Sacramento Kings (27-46) on Saturday night.
Sacramento won't make the playoffs but they've played well in the second half of the season, particularly at home this month where they are 5-3 with victories over playoff teams like the Clippers and Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers are injured and desperate for a win. Guards Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are expected to play after participating in the morning shoot-around.
For a more in-depth breakdown, check out Preview: Lakers vs. Kings.
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Email Eric Pincus at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.