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
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
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.
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.