LOS ANGELES - There had been many a night this season when my fingers just didn't want to talk about Spencer Hawes.
He may have put up a few points and a few boards. He had the status of being the team's prized draft pick, which means he's always worth discussing. But when it came time to write a game story and decide whether Hawes worthy of notice, it just wouldn't happen. His production was often hollow - better than not producing but it had little or nothing to do with the outcome. Tonight? I didn't write enough about him.
He was sensational (14 points on 7 of 11 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists), never moreso than his stretch late in the third quarter when a Kings letdown would have been deadly. He buried a jumper from 22 feet out, then palmed Pau Gasol's layup attempt on the other end in a vital defensive stand that pitted the two in a jumpball. He won it, of course, leading to a Kevin Martin layup that kept things going as they were up 92-87.
He was just as big in the fourth, with another block on Gasol with 1:44 left in which he not only swatted the attempt but also walked the tightrope on the baseline to save the ball and keep the possession.
"It was a big game for us, especially the way we’ve been playing," Hawes said. "We need to win like this to get our confidence back up. I think the last few games, I’ve been starting to play better. I’m just trying every game to grow on the court with my confidence and I think it’s starting to show."
And the dunk. Don't forget about the dunk.
Aw, shucks. He's growing up - and getting up - before our eyes.
A few more notes from the action...
* Mikki Moore's help defense on the Kobe Bryant attempted game-winner was a game saver, and only the last of many solid efforts for the Kings forward. He had 14 points and nine rebounds, coming one shy of just his fourth double-double of this season. Bryant, however, wishes Lakers coach Phil Jackson hadn't made it so easy to stop him at the end.
"It was isolation from the top," Bryant said. "Teams are used to seeing it, so they’re all going to pack it in and send me one way and crowd the lane. We’ll give them a different look next time."
* Speaking of next time, Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said he can't wait to see the Kings again. Not only did Sasha believe he was wronged on the call in which he fouled Beno Udrih from the floor in what led to the game-winning free throws, but Vujacic felt no shame from the acting job he did to prompt a technical on Mikki Moore late in the fourth.
"I would like to play Sacramento again and I think we’re going to play them again soon, so I think that makes it very interesting," Vujacic said. "Every loss is painful, especially this one. The way I was called for that foul at the end. I don’t want to talk about it, but we had the game. We found a way to come back and we almost won it. It’s tough to lose like that."
And what of the Oscar-worthy performance he gave when Moore swung an elbow that didn't come close to Vujacic despite his theatrics that made it look otherwise?
"(Moore) was swinging with the elbows before that," he said. "I think every swing like that with the elbows should be a technical when a big guys takes the elbow out."
* Bryant's line about how Ron Artest pulled a Puff Daddy (in the game story) was hysterical, but it wasn't the only anti-Artest fodder.
When asked about how the third quarter with Artest seemed a bit chippy, Kobe said, "Ron knows he can't guard me."
Francisco Garcia did, though, holding Bryant to one point in the fourth quarter after he had exploded for 17 in the final period against the Kings on Tuesday.
* Kings coach Reggie Theus pulled the right strings late.
His last solid decision was to replace Hawes with Brad Miller with 15 seconds left to go. Hawes had already provided a handful of nice passes, but he's still far from Miller in that department. Sure enough, Miller - who hadn't played to that point in the fourth quarter - found Udrih with a bounce pass from atop the key that led to the win.
What's more, Theus' decision to play Artest for just seven minutes, 34 seconds in the second half was certainly new territory. He said it had nothing to do with the foot soreness Artest had cited and was merely about the flow of the game.
"No," Theus replied when asked if the decision was at all related to health matters. "I go with the guys who I think are in the best rhythm."
To Artest's credit, he was giddy afterward, throwing kudos around to the young guys and saying how he didn't care about anything other than getting the win.
* The Kings finally won a game within the Pacific Division. They're 1-9, avoiding the infamy of being the only team in league history to go winless within the division with six division games left to go.
* Game highlights courtesy of NBA.com here. - Sam Amick