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Inside an electrifying ARCO Arena reminiscent of 2002, the Sacramento Kings (13-16) battled the Los Angeles Lakers (24-15) in a thrilling double overtime game.
The arena was standing-room only for the Dec. 26 game. Lakers fans decked in purple and gold peppered the crowd of 17,345 that night.
After a long and hard fight, the Kings faltered in the end to the defending NBA champions, losing 112-103.
It was an emotional loss for fans and the players and Kings Head Coach Paul Westphal wore the team's emotions on his face.
"We wanted that game so bad," Westphal said somberly. "(The Kings) did everything but get the last rebound with four tenths of a second."
In the last seconds of the first overtime the Lakers kept the ball alive around the rim before it was finally tipped in by forward-center Pau Gasol.
Throughout the game, Kings fans were cheering their team on, chanting "Beat L.A.!" and mercilessly booing the Lakers' superstar Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, however, said he misses the feeling of being booed in Sacramento.
"There was no enthusiasm or passion in the crowd," Bryant said about ARCO Arena the past two years. "It felt like old times (tonight). There was a lot of energy in the crowd. It's good to see the city rallying behind this team."
Westphal said he was grateful to see a sold out game and passionate fans filling up the arena to capacity, and wants more of the same.
"It was wonderful to be in that building tonight," he said. "To have the support of this town rocking like that. Guys played their hearts out, it's so disappointing.
"We want to get to the place the Lakers are (how they win close games). We have a lot of the ingredients. We definitely have the heart and we will get there, particularly with support like that."
Bryant left with good impressions of the team and its fans and said he hopes it stays that way.
"It seems like they're getting behind this team...and what the young crew's doing over here," Bryant said about the Kings fans. "(It) felt good to come out here and get booed."
Kings will have another chance to face the Lakers in Los Angeles Saturday, Jan. 1.
A new game and a new year.
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images