OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- After blowing their final game of the
regular season, the Sacramento Kings were as low as they've ever
A few moments later and 600 miles up the West Coast, Kobe Bryant
sent the Kings even lower.
Sacramento completed its collapse and blew the Pacific Division
title when Jason Richardson scored 28 points in the Golden State
Warriors' 97-91 season-ending victory over the Kings on Wednesday
Peja Stojakovic scored 27 points for the Kings, who lost for the
eighth time in 12 games, falling all the way from the top spot in
the league to the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
After beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Sacramento
needed just one win to clinch its third straight division title,
but the Kings lost to Denver and Golden State.
The Lakers then took the Pacific title by beating Portland
105-104 in double overtime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Bryant,
who didn't seem to be trying when the Lakers lost to the Kings
three days earlier.
Sacramento (55-27) now gets a first-round meeting with the
Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Kings in last season's playoffs.
"I'm just totally shocked," coach Rick Adelman said in the
Kings' somber locker room. "I had no idea why we weren't ready to
play. ... We've got three days to find our offense. When you're
paying no attention to detail and you've got no focus, that's
what's going to happen."
Golden State had a strong finish to its 10th straight season out
of the playoffs, winning 12 of its final 17 games. The Warriors
used just seven of their nine players in uniform for what probably
was embattled coach Eric Musselman's final game.
"Last year we bowed down at the end and didn't want to play,"
Richardson said. "It's good beating the best teams in the NBA and
being the spoiler. It was fun."
Despite the high stakes, the Kings had exactly the same
confusion and weaknesses they've shown throughout the last two
months since Chris Webber returned from knee surgery. Shooting
poorly and getting outhustled by the Warriors, Sacramento fell
behind by 15 points midway through the third quarter.
"I just don't want to say anything that everybody will jump on
and make me the villain again," said Webber, who had 14 points on
7-of-19 shooting. "But sometimes you just have to be tougher than
The Kings rallied, pulling within 76-73 on Mike Bibby's jumper
with 8:54 left as Adelman played four starters and All-Star Brad
Miller for nearly the entire game in a desperate attempt to win.
But after Bibby made a steal and a layup to cut Golden State's
lead to 93-91 with 49 seconds left, Foyle made a hook shot in the
lane and Webber missed a 3-pointer. Pietrus added two free throws,
and the Warriors celebrated as the kings trudged to the locker room
Bibby scored 22 points despite his grandmother's death earlier
in the day. Miller was ineffective, scoring just two points in 28
"I don't understand," Adelman said. "It's a long season, all
that stuff, but we had something to play for. I guess the second or
fourth seed doesn't matter to us. ... We had the day off (Tuesday).
I don't know if they all ran a marathon or something, but we played
with no energy. Whatever we got, we got what we deserved."
The Kings have struggled ever since they sat atop the league at
the All-Star break. When Webber returned and Bobby Jackson went out
of the lineup with an injury, they lost the chemistry that has
characterized the best five-year stretch in franchise history.
Before the game, Musselman sounded resigned to his departure
after two impressive seasons -- at least by Golden State's miserable
standards. Musselman has clashed with team management over playing
time and strategy.
"It's really no use talking about that," Musselman said of his
future. "It's really not my decision right now. I love to coach
basketball. ... I'll enjoy watching this one (on tape) tonight."
Jackson sat out for the 28th time in the last 29 games with
a strained muscle in his abdomen. The Kings hope their top reserve
will return for the postseason ... The Warriors also had their
eighth sellout of the season to establish the franchise's
single-season record for home attendance. ... Stojakovic finished
second in the NBA scoring race behind Orlando's Tracy McGrady. ...
Both teams wore vintage uniforms. The Warriors improved to 6-2 in
their yellow "The City" togs this season.