Kings hope regular season success vs. Spurs carries over in playoffs

Updated: April 6, 2006, 9:45 PM ET
Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- If the Sacramento Kings hold on to the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, they could face the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in the opening round.

While that might be scary for some teams considering the Spurs own the best record (58-17) in the Western Conference and have lost only five homes games all year, the Kings might feel differently based on how they matched up in the regular season.

Sacramento caught the Spurs by surprise Wednesday, building a 16-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and cruising to a 97-87 victory. It was only the seventh home loss in the last 90 games for San Antonio.

Despite the victory and two narrow losses to the Spurs earlier in the season, Kings coach Rick Adelman is not plotting strategy for a probable playoff matchup just yet.

"I don't even want to think about that, we need to get there (the playoffs) first," Adelman said. "Who does match up well with them -- Detroit?"

In a Nov. 11 game at Arco Arena, the Spurs withstood Mike Bibby's 14 fourth quarter points, squandering a big lead but hanging on for the 96-93 win. Five weeks later in San Antonio, Michael Finley rescued the Spurs from a loss by hitting a 20-footer with 2.5 seconds left in the 90-89 victory.

The third and final regular season meeting was all Sacramento. The Kings took the lead for good late in the first quarter and built the margin to double figures by scoring the first 10 points of the second.

Bonzi Wells hopes the win can carry over into the postseason.

"This could be the team we match up with in the playoffs, so it was good for our confidence to get a win in this building," he said.

San Antonio's big three -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili -- combined for 35 points. For the third straight game, the Spurs had no answer for Bibby, who scored 31 points.

In the three games against the Spurs Bibby has averaged 28.3 points. Although Bibby has been difficult to stop, Ginobili feels the addition of Ron Artest has helped the Kings shed the "soft" image they possessed in the past.

"They are more physical," Ginobili said. "We are going to use (this game) to know them better. The last time we played was a long time ago. So it's going to be good to know them if we really play them."

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KINGS OWN CLIPPERS: No one sitting dejectedly in the visitor's locker room Sunday at Arco Arena was unaware of this losing streak.

The Kings had just beaten the Los Angeles Clippers once again, posting their 12th straight victory overall and 16th consecutive at Arco. The Clippers last win in Sacramento was Nov. 7, 1997.

"I have never won here," Los Angeles' Corey Maggette said. "We don't play well against this team or in this building. That needs to change."

The Clippers won't have to wait long for the chance at revenge. The Kings visit the Staples Center Friday night, looking for a four-game series sweep.

"They don't want us to sweep, we know they will be ready to go," Sacramento's Shareef Abdur-Rahim said.

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PREPARING FOR NEXT SEASON: Court time has been extremely limited for Sergei Monia since he was acquired by the Kings with Vitaly Potapenko in the Brian Skinner deal Feb. 23 with Portland.

In his first visit back to the Rose Garden last week, he played two scoreless minutes. Monia, who is currently on the inactive list, has now played in three games for a total of seven minutes.

The Russian-born Monia says he is trying to stay prepared, lifting weights regularly before practice and shooting afterward. Monia is hoping to be back in Sacramento next season.

"I will go home and play with the Russian National team, play in the summer league," he said. "I come back in July; I think I will be with the Kings next year."

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AROUND THE RIM: New Orleans trails the Kings by two games and Utah is three games back. Sacramento has six games remaining, while both Utah and the Hornets have eight left. ... Shareef Abdur-Rahim has made 41 of 68 shots (60 percent) in the last seven games. ... The Kings had held 13 straight opponents under 100 points before Dallas rolled up a season-high 127 earlier this week. ... The Kings are 21-13 since Artest joined the team. ... After Friday's game against the Clippers, Sacramento finishes the season with four of five games at home.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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