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Van Exel keeps Sacramento at bay

12/27/2003

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Jason Richardson figured the Golden State
Warriors had blown it. Their 14-point lead over the Sacramento
Kings had shrunk to two, and reliable Mike Bibby was at the free
throw line.

When Bibby missed both shots, Richardson wondered if something
big had changed for his long-struggling franchise.

"In the past, we'd never get a break like that," he said.
"Never."

Richardson scored 25 points, and Nick Van Exel hit a running
shot in the lane with 18.8 seconds left to help the Warriors snap a
15-game losing streak against Sacramento with a 98-91 victory
Friday night.

Van Exel scored five points in the final moments as the Warriors
barely held on for an impressive sweep of the NBA's top two teams.
Golden State beat the Lakers 107-98 on Tuesday night before
harassing the Kings into a rare night of poor shooting -- and then
holding on against Sacramento's last-ditch rally.

If the Warriors end their nine-year playoff drought this season,
they might look back at a four-day stretch in December as the
turning point. Mike Dunleavy scored 18 points as Golden State
recorded its most exciting back-to-back wins in years.

The Warriors improved to 14-13 overall, including 10-5 at home.
The perennial losers haven't been over .500 this late in the season
since December 1993.

"It has been a mental thing in the past," said Troy Murphy,
who had season highs of 15 points and 14 rebounds. "They are the
closest team to us, and they've beaten us 15 times in a row. It has
been a big mental barrier for us to get through, because we want to
beat them worse than any other team in the league."

The Warriors surprised the Kings with physical defense, shoving
Sacramento's sharpshooters out of position and controlling the
paint. They moved ahead in the third quarter and nearly turned the
game into a blowout.

The Kings trailed 93-79 with 4:01 left -- but they made a 12-0
run keyed by seven points from Bibby, who finished with 28. Bibby
is an 83 percent foul shooter, but he missed two free throws with
51 seconds left, and Peja Stojakovic missed an open jumper.

Van Exel then drove past three defenders and hooked in an
awkward shot for Golden State's second field goal of the fourth
quarter. Van Exel added three free throws in the final 11 seconds
as Golden State hung on for its first win over Sacramento since
Dec. 20, 1999.

Stojakovic returned from a one-game suspension to score 16
points for the Kings, who lost their second game in two days after
a 16-2 stretch that began in late November. Sacramento had one of
its worst shooting games of the season and played even worse
defense while wasting a chance to claim the NBA's best record.

After losing to Dallas on Thursday while Stojakovic was
suspended for bumping an official, Sacramento struggled against
Golden State and dropped to 20-8 -- a half-game behind the Lakers in
the Pacific Division.

Bibby had his second straight outstanding game after scoring 23
points against the Mavericks, but he was in a foul mood after
missing his foul shots.

"I couldn't believe I missed one. I missed both," he said.
"The big thing is that we have two L's on those games."

Bibby then abruptly walked away from reporters at his locker.

Stojakovic, the NBA's third-leading scorer, was tentative and
ineffective for most of the game. His teammates weren't much
better, with Bobby Jackson enduring his second straight horrible
shooting performance (3-for-11) and Brad Miller battling more foul
trouble.

Miller got just six shots and didn't have an assist in the
Kings' third game in four days. Sacramento, the NBA's
highest-scoring team, was held under 100 points for the first time
in 16 games.

Golden State still seemed energized from its victory over the
Lakers -- although for the second straight game in Oakland the road
team was loudly cheered. The Lakers had a huge rooting section, and
the Kings always travel the 90 miles to the Arena with several
thousand fans.

Game notes
Erick Dampier, who had eight points and nine rebounds, is
the only player on the Warriors' active roster who was with the
team for its last win over Sacramento. ... Jackson appeared to hit
a leaning jumper as time expired in the third quarter, but
officials waved it off, then upheld their call after a video
review. ... While Stojakovic was sitting at home on Thursday, he
got a phone call during halftime from someone claiming to be a
reporter from NBC. Stojakovic knew something was fishy, since the
caller had a Serbian accent. It was Vlade Divac.