Regular Season Series (Game 3 of 4)

Series starts 1/29

Game 1: Thursday, January 29th
Game 2: Friday, February 6th
Game 3: Sunday, March 14th
Game 4: Wednesday, March 31st

Spurs 87


Kings 101

(49-17, 30-5 home)

12:30 PM ET, March 14, 2004

Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

1 2 3 4 T
SA 27 20 21 1987
SAC 25 21 22 33101

Top Performers

SA: R. Nesterovic 14 Pts, 13 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Sac: C. Webber 23 Pts, 8 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Kings propelled by 23-7 run in fourth quarter

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Doug Christie talked trash and flung himself at loose balls. Mike Bibby drove the lane with abandon, Chris Webber crashed the boards -- and Brad Miller did more dirty work than everybody else combined.

Anybody still think the Sacramento Kings aren't tough enough to go deep in the postseason?

The San Antonio Spurs became believers after the Kings got nasty in a 101-87 victory Sunday.

Bibby scored 20 of his 24 points in the second half, and Miller added 19 points and 13 rebounds as the Kings avenged three straight home losses to the defending NBA champions, who played without injured MVP Tim Duncan.

Spurred by Miller's reckless inside play and Christie's defensive prowess, Sacramento roared away with a 23-7 run early in the fourth quarter, bullying and outworking the Spurs.

"That's more of what we're going to get into in the playoffs," said Miller, a two-time All-Star added to the roster last summer to inject toughness into what's often a finesse team. "They started out like that, a lot of pushing and holding like they always do. We had to respond, and we did it. Defense is what won the game for us."

Webber had 23 points and eight rebounds and Peja Stojakovic added 18 points, but the Kings' high-flying offense didn't get going until the fourth. For the first three quarters, the NBA's best defensive team limited the league's best offensive team to 68 points even without Duncan, who sat out for the eighth time in nine games to rest his injured knee.

Without their star, the Spurs forced Sacramento to play slow-tempo, defensive basketball. The style frustrated the Kings early on, but they adjusted later.

"I'd have to say that's the best defensive game we've played so far," Christie said. "That's where we have to go -- that type of emotion, that type of effort -- to get that Holy Grail, to get to where we want to go."

Vlade Divac put it a different way: "We played somewhere between regular and dirty basketball."

Manu Ginobili scored 16 points and Rasho Nesterovic had 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Spurs, who had won three straight in Sacramento. San Antonio was one of just five opponents to win at Arco Arena this season, beating the Kings last month on the strength of Duncan's 28 points and 14 rebounds.

But after controlling the game early and entering the fourth in a 68-68 tie, San Antonio scored just four points and made eight turnovers in the first six minutes.

"Their defense picked up in the fourth quarter, without a doubt," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "Christie did a great job of initiating that. It rose everyone else significantly."

Christie scored five points and made two steals in the fourth, but his passion on defense also inspired his teammates. He held Tony Parker, the Spurs' second-leading scorer to eight points -- six in a short flurry in the third quarter.

"We were just so active," Miller said. "Everybody was going for loose balls, diving on the floor. You're going to have playoff games like that where we're only (scoring) in the 80s. There's going to be a lot of hard fouls and mood swings."

Duncan, the two-time MVP and the Spurs' leading scorer and rebounder, returned last Wednesday after missing six games, but he hasn't played since. San Antonio hasn't decided whether Duncan will be allowed to return for Monday's game at Golden State.

Despite Duncan's absence, Sacramento was listless until the second quarter, when Malik Rose got a technical foul for taunting Miller. Moments earlier, Miller and Webber had sent Rose crashing to the floor on a layup attempt. Rose was immediately yanked by coach Gregg Popovich, and the Kings scored the next 10 points.

"We have to bear down and be more mentally tough," Rose said. "We've had those problems even with Tim. He's not the end-all to that problem."

Aside from Hedo Turkoglu's friendships with his former Sacramento teammates, these West powers certainly seem to dislike each other: Nesterovic and Christie ran a steady stream of trash talk at each other in the second half, and almost nobody helped an opponent off the floor.

Miller and Bruce Bowen also collided at midcourt while Miller was screaming to celebrate a jumper with 8:02 to play.

"Hey, man, shut up!" Bowen said.

Game notes

Coach Rick Adelman won his 295th game with the Kings, tying the franchise record for victories in less than six seasons. ... Sacramento used just seven players until the final 2:13, when Darius Songaila and Rodney Buford got in. ... Kings G Bobby Jackson missed his 13th straight game with an abdominal strain, while F Gerald Wallace missed his ninth straight with a sprained foot.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 87 101
FGM-FGA 35-80 (.438) 39-78 (.500)
3PM-3PA 4-13 (.308) 7-20 (.350)
FTM-FTA 13-20 (.650) 16-24 (.667)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 15-45 10-39
Assists 17 22
Turnovers 20 15
Steals 10 14
Blocks 3 3
Fast Break Points 0 4
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 16 (1/0) 17 (1/0)

Top Performers

San Antonio
Rasho Nesterovic Nesterovic
Points: 14
Reb: 13
Ast: 1
Stl: 1
Blk: 1
Chris Webber Webber
Points: 23
Reb: 8
Ast: 5
Stl: 1
Blk: 1