34-47, 13-28 Away
44-38, 27-14 Home

Wells, Thomas lead Kings to ninth victory in 11 games

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- The Sacramento Kings are headed to the playoffs with momentum, confidence and just a bit of drama. It's a combination that's worked remarkably well for them ever since Ron Artest got to town.

Bonzi Wells scored 23 points and Kenny Thomas had 17 points, a season-high 18 rebounds, seven assists and an animated argument with teammate Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the Kings' ninth victory in 11 games, 111-105 over the Seattle SuperSonics on Tuesday night.

Mike Bibby scored 21 points and matched his season high with six 3-pointers for the Kings (44-38), who will be the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs if the Los Angeles Lakers (44-37) lose to the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night.

If the Lakers win, Sacramento will open its eighth consecutive playoff trip in San Antonio this weekend against the defending NBA champion Spurs. The Kings don't care where they're headed, since either matchup is quite daunting -- and because they've been among the NBA's best teams since Artest transformed their season in late January.

"It's not really that important to us," said Artest, who scored a season-low three points but played sterling second-half defense on Rashard Lewis. "What's important is that we're there, and when we get to that game, that first quarter, that we're ready to go.

"We've had people's attention [for a while]. I think people are going to come after us like we're the No. 1 seed, like we're favorites."

Thomas and Abdur-Rahim scored eight points apiece in the fourth as Sacramento made an 18-5 run in the final minutes, rallying from a small deficit with 8 minutes to play for a comfortable win.

But nothing is easy for this club: With 3 minutes to play during the Kings' decisive run, Abdur-Rahim and Thomas started yelling at each other on the way to the bench for a timeout. Teammate Corliss Williamson eventually separated them, and both stayed in the game.

"It's just basketball, nothing serious," Abdur-Rahim said. "Just competing, pushing each other. It's just basketball. It would be like me and my brother."

Abdur-Rahim repeatedly cursed at Thomas during the fight. These two have a history: They were fined and suspended for a fistfight in January 2002 when Abdur-Rahim was with Atlanta and Thomas played for Houston.

"It was a good game tonight," Thomas said when asked about the argument.

Sacramento took three of four this season from the Sonics, who lost for the fourth time in five games in their first outing since the club announced coach Bob Hill will be back next season.

Ray Allen scored 26 points and Nick Collison matched his career high with 20 for the SuperSonics, who eliminated Sacramento from the playoffs in last season's first round. Seattle will finish its third losing season in four years at home against Denver on Wednesday night.

"It was hard to get ourselves going," Collison said. "I think because it's late in the year, and we're not in the playoff race, it took us a while to wake up. Our play early was so bad that we weren't able to win the game."

Lewis scored 20 points and Luke Ridnour had 14 points and a career-high 15 assists, but both were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.

Collison scored 12 points in the third quarter, and Seattle had nine consecutive points while taking the lead. Ridnour surpassed his previous career high in assists midway through the third -- but Sacramento turned up its defense in the fourth, with Artest shutting down Lewis as Seattle managed just 16 points.

"Sacramento had a lot to play for, so we just didn't finish the game the way we should," Ridnour said.

Thomas scored six big points in the final 3:16 -- and his deflection, steal and breakaway dunk with 1:59 left sealed the win.

"Kenny Thomas is a nice player, but he shouldn't have 18 rebounds," Hill said. "That just can't happen."

Artest had his worst offensive game since joining the Kings in a midseason trade, shooting 1-for-11 with his right wrist heavily taped. He still matched his season high with eight assists.

The Kings clinched their eighth consecutive playoff berth shortly before beating New Orleans on Sunday night. Sacramento finished 27-14 at home -- their worst record at Arco Arena in coach Rick Adelman's eight seasons with the club, despite winning 18 of their final 21 home games.

Game notes
Allen, No. 3 in the NBA in free-throw percentage, went 4-for-6 at the line -- missing two free throws in a game for just the fourth time all season. ... Williamson played in just 37 games for the Kings this season, but he received the club's Oscar
Robertson Triple-Double award for community service at halftime. ... Seattle big man Robert Swift didn't make the trip because of a sprained right foot. ... Sacramento went 21-20 at home in 1997-98, the year before Adelman arrived.


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