With chants of "Bonzi! Bonzi!" hitting one of the NBA's
most-maligned players like 17,317 pats on the back, Wells scored
the final big points in the Kings' 102-84 victory over the San
Antonio Spurs on Sunday night, evening up their first-round playoff
The series and the cheers are sweet redemption for Wells, who
had 25 points and 17 rebounds in a dominant effort. But this series
has been nothing but trouble for the Spurs, whose title defense has
begun with no answers for Wells' relentless offense and Ron
Artest's suffocating defense.
"Look where I came from, and how hard people have been on me
over the years, and it just feels great to be a part of something
special," Wells said. "We've got to go down there and steal one --
(but) we might not even call it a steal. We know that we can play
with this team, and we can beat them."
Game 5 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night in San
Antonio, with Game 6 back at Arco Arena on Friday night.
Brad Miller scored 19 points and Mike Bibby added 16 as the
eighth-seeded Kings rolled through the second half of their second
straight home victory. Artest had 14 points despite early foul
trouble, but his teammates again followed his aggressive lead for a
blowout victory over the suddenly struggling Spurs, who won the
first two games of the series at home.
"They beat us in about every facet of the game," Spurs coach
Gregg Popovich said. "They were physical, aggressive, showed a lot
of desire, and we didn't match it. ... Bonzi has been great. He's
been a one-man wrecking crew."
The Kings won Game 3 on Kevin Martin's electric buzzer-beating
layup, but this win left no doubt they can make the first round
miserable for the champs with their new mentality. Artest arrived
in a trade in late January and immediately transformed the Kings,
who won 25 of their last 36 regular-season games with a defensive
drive they lacked for years.
Tony Parker scored 22 points and Tim Duncan had 17 for the
Spurs, who have been unable to slow Wells' canny game of rebounds,
jump shots and drives to the hoop. They also haven't been able to
get Manu Ginobili going. Artest's defense has limited the Argentine
forward to 11 points in two games in Sacramento.
"This game was gratifying because we just took it right on
through the 48 minutes," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "(Artest)
is just so strong. He has such great hands, and we've done such a
good job closing in on (Ginobili)."
The Kings are just the 12th No. 8 seed in league history to win
even two games in a first-round series against a conference's top
team. The NBA's first playoff round was best-of-five until 2003.
Sacramento still would need two more wins to become the third
No. 8 seed to win a playoff series. Denver beat Seattle in 1994,
and the New York Knicks upset Miami in 1999 -- both in five-game
The Spurs have plenty of reasons to be worried: They needed a
lucky bounce on Brent Barry's tying 3-pointer to force overtime in
their Game 2 victory. But although the Kings outplayed the Spurs
for long stretches of the previous two games, they were a few
seconds away from an 0-3 deficit before Martin made a twisting
fast-break layup over Duncan as time expired in Sacramento's 94-93
victory in Game 3 Friday night.
With the latest sellout crowd seemingly still buzzing two nights
later, the Kings took an 11-point lead into halftime of Game 4.
"Defensively, we weren't very good, and on top of that, those
guys shot the ball very, very well," Duncan said. "Bonzi was
incredible. Brad seemed to hit every shot that he had, and that
really opened it up for them."
Still leading by 11, the Kings opened the fourth quarter with a
23-8 run behind Wells, the hard-nosed shooting guard who was
basically kicked off Memphis' playoff roster last spring for
clashing with coach Mike Fratello.
Wells, a free agent this summer after one season with the Kings,
might be playing himself into a hefty new contract somewhere. After
he swiped an offensive rebound, muscled in a layup and drew a foul
with 8:55 to play, the crowd chanted his name as he put the Kings
Wells, who set his career playoff high in rebounds with the
NBA's highest total this postseason, added a layup moments later
for Sacramento's first 20-point lead and his eighth consecutive
Artest picked up two fouls in the first 90 seconds, but
Martin scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 14.
... Popovich mildly tweaked his starting lineup before Game 4,
replacing center Nazr Mohammed with Rasho Nesterovic, who started
much of the first half of the season. Nesterovic made three baskets
in the first 8 minutes -- but didn't score again. ... Artest missed
his first four shots and didn't score until hitting a jumper midway
through the second quarter. ... Martin has made all 23 of his free
throws in the series.