7:00 PM ET, December 19, 2002
Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
Kings point guard Mike Bibby had 17 points and four assists in his first game back this season.
Or so he thought. This time, Bibby's celebration of a go-ahead jumper was 6 minutes too early -- and the Kings soon went back to playing with two left feet.
Tim Duncan had 23 points and 14 rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs spoiled Sacramento's perfect home record and ruined Bibby's season debut, beating the Kings 83-81 Thursday night.
Stephen Jackson scored 18 points as the Spurs followed a victory in Seattle by winning in the NBA's toughest road arena one night later. The Spurs have struggled with inconsistency all season, but they silenced the Arco Arena crowd in a game Bibby's teammates desperately wanted to win for him.
"We're still trying to find our personality, but this was a good start,'' Duncan said.
The Kings had won their first 13 games at Arco, where they're 80-14 over the past three seasons, but they gave one of their most lifeless performances in years on the same night their injury-plagued roster became nearly whole.
Sacramento shot less than 35 percent and never found a rhythm. Sure, the Kings surged ahead on a 3-pointer by Bibby with 6:22 left, but they immediately gave up several baskets in a row and never got back in it.
Bibby missed the Kings' first 27 games after breaking his foot in the preseason, but he got a raucous standing ovation at the first mention of his name. He hit a long jumper on Sacramento's first possession and finished with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting, including two 3-pointers.
"I'm nervous before every game. It was just a little more than usual this time,'' Bibby said. "I kept telling them, 'Don't lose this one. Sometimes, it just doesn't work out. That's why we play so many games. We just couldn't make shots.''
Chris Webber had 23 points and 12 rebounds, while reserve Bobby Jackson added 21 points. The rest of coach Rick Adelman's eight-man rotation went 8-for-35, scoring 20 points.
"It's kind of amazing that we lost by two,'' Adelman said. "It just seemed like we were running in sand all night long.''
The Spurs were barely better, committing 18 turnovers, but Duncan had another outstanding game. San Antonio hung on with defense, allowing the Kings to make several turnovers and poor shots in the closing minutes.
San Antonio didn't have a field goal in the final 3:36, but the Kings repeatedly botched opportunities to get back in the game. With 12 seconds left and Sacramento down 81-78, Bobby Jackson inexplicably drove the lane and made a wild pass that was intercepted by Stephen Jackson, who hit two free throws with 10.1 seconds left.
Bobby Jackson hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"Any game against Sacramento is an important game, and if you win it, it's huge for your confidence,'' San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "It makes you feel as if you're on the right track.''
Duncan dominated the Kings' low-post defenders, and San Antonio consistently got back on defense to stop Sacramento's fast break. Steve Smith scored 11 points, and David Robinson had eight points and 11 rebounds.
"We have a lot of new guys, and we're figuring things out,'' Robinson said. "When the Kings made a couple of 3s, it reminded me of how loud this place is.''
After Duncan hit a leaner in the final second of the first half, the Kings trailed 44-39 -- just their second halftime deficit at Arco all season.
But the Kings hit three straight jump shots to take a 71-70 lead midway through the fourth. When Bibby hit the go-ahead 3-pointer, he re-enacted his celebration after hitting the game-winning jumper in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.
The Spurs scored seven straight points to go back ahead, but Bobby Jackson's 3-pointer cut the lead to 79-77. The Kings had a chance to tie it, but Duncan blocked Vlade Divac's layup attempt with 1:24 left, then hit two free throws.
"It was our fault that we let them control the pace,'' Webber said. "Games like this make certain teams' seasons, or at least a couple of months.''
Peja Stojakovic had another horrible game, shooting 2-of-10 for 5 points and playing mediocre defense for Sacramento. Stojakovic, an All-Star last season, is shooting under 41 percent this season while struggling with a nagging heel injury and an obvious lack of confidence.
Webber hit a 75-footer from the opposite foul line -- but it came after the third-quarter buzzer. ... Bibby had missed just two games in his first four NBA seasons. He never missed a game in three seasons with Vancouver. ... Steve Kerr missed his second straight game for San Antonio while attending to personal business. He'll rejoin the Spurs at home against Washington on Saturday night.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||31-75 (.413)||34-98 (.347)|
|3PM-3PA||1-11 (.091)||5-18 (.278)|
|FTM-FTA||20-23 (.870)||8-13 (.615)|
|Fast Break Points||0||5|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||17 (0/0)||19 (2/0)|