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Kings hand Lakers 50th loss of season

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ray McCallum is reaching new heights in an NBA career that is just starting to bloom.

On Wednesday night, the Sacramento Kings rookie guard helped send the Los Angeles Lakers plummeting to a depth they haven’t reached in almost four decades.

McCallum scored a career-best 27 points and committed only three turnovers while running the point for 46 minutes, and the Kings handed the Lakers their 50th loss with a 107-102 decision at Sleep Train Arena.

“Every game I’m seeing more and more things out there on the court,” McCallum said after starting his fifth consecutive game. The Kings’ second-round choice, the 36th overall selection in last June’s draft, played at least 43 minutes in all five of those games.

“All year, I’ve been watching, watching, watching, waiting for the opportunity,” said McCallum, who did not play 10 minutes in a game until January and didn’t top the 20-minute mark until Feb. 25. “I’ve been trying to learn and waiting, and now I’m just competing and trying to put what I’ve learned out there to use. … The game is starting to slow down.”

Forward Rudy Gay scored a game-high 31 points, and center DeMarcus Cousins finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, his 34th contest totaling at least that many. He also moved into 10th place on Sacramento’s career-scoring list with 5,029, three ahead of current Kings assistant coach Corliss Williamson.

Sacramento prevented the Lakers from recording a series sweep, winning for the only time in four meetings.

“We definitely wanted to avoid the sweep,” Cousins said.

Los Angeles trailed only 105-102 when Lakers guard Kent Bazemore missed a driving layup with 24 seconds left. Cousins snatched the rebound, McCallum made one of two free throws, forward Travis Outlaw subsequently sank one of two free throws to seal it for the Kings (27-48).

“We’re moving the ball, we’re distributing,” Cousins said. “We’re playing some great basketball right now. … I like the growth we’re showing right now even though it’s the end of the season.”

The Lakers (25-50) last dropped 50 games in a season in 1974-75. That club, which featured Hall of Fame guard Gail Goodrich and future coach Pat Riley, finished 30-52, the worst mark in the club’s Los Angeles era. The current Lakers must win five of their final seven just to equal that mark.

“Nobody’s feeling sorry for us,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We just need to understand what’s happening and go out there and try to make the guys better. It could be a lot worse, but guys have competed every day, they’ve supported each other. They’ve been dealt a tough hand, and they’re dealing with it the best they can.”

The short-handed Lakers played without centers Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman, forward Xavier Henry and guard Steve Nash, all of whom are sidelined with injuries. Guard Kobe Bryant has been out since December to rehabilitate an injured left knee.

“It was a tough flight,” D’Antoni said, jokingly referencing his team’s trip north a day after losing at home to the Portland Trail Blazers. “There was a lot of turbulence. But again, this means a lot of opportunities for a lot of guys.”

Guard Jodie Meeks led Los Angeles with 21 points. Center Jordan Hill scored 18, and guard Nick Young, coming off a 40-point night in the Lakers’ 124-112 loss to Portland, added 17.

Gasol suffered a recurrence of the serious vertigo that caused him to miss four of his team’s previous five games. Kaman also was a late scratch, sitting out with a strained right calf. Henry sat out for the third time in four games with an injured wrist.

Gasol and Kaman combine to average 28 points and 15 rebounds per game, but without them, the Lakers hung with the Kings much of the night. Los Angeles never trailed by more than 12.

McCallum was there to make big shots each time the Lakers got close.

“The biggest thing that impresses me isn’t his scoring and it isn’t his assists,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “It’s his demeanor, his composure and his poise. For him to be a young rookie who hasn’t played much this year, to exhibit all those attributes at such an early age is remarkable. He’s only going to get better.”

NOTES: Lakers G Steve Nash was out due to nerve root irritation in his ankle, while G Jordan Farmar was sidelined with a groin ailment. … Los Angeles used its 33rd starting lineup of the season, with G Kent Bazemore, C Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly and G Kendall Marshall joining G Jodie Meeks, the only one of the five to have made at least 60 starts this season. … Kings G Isaiah Thomas (right quad contusion) missed his fifth straight contest. … C DeMarcus Cousins recorded his 5,000th career point in his 284th career game, the fewest amount of games needed by a Kings player to reach the milestone. … The Lakers lost 50 games for the fourth time in franchise history. The 1957-58 team (19-53) and the 1959-60 team (25-50) each reached that number while the team was stationed in Minneapolis. … Despite Wednesday’s loss, the Lakers won the season series against Sacramento for the seventh time in eight seasons.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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