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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kings Defeat Grizzlies, 115-111

The Sacramento Kings jumped out to a 15-5 lead over the injury-depleted Memphis Grizzlies and held off a couple furious rallies to win, 115-111. Mike Bibby led Sacramento with a season-high 32 points and also dished out 10 assists. Kevin Martin added 24 points, Shareef Abdur-Rahim had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Ron Artest overcame a bout with back spasms to contribute 19 points on 8-12 field goal shooting. Chucky Atkins led Memphis with 27 points--all of them scored in the second half--on blistering 10-11 field goal shooting.

Ron Artest's back spasms kept him out of the starting lineup and he did not enter the game until the 5:32 mark of the first quarter. The Kings led 18-10 at that point. Artest promptly got his shot blocked, fumbled a defensive rebound, committed a foul and travelled. Nevertheless, the Kings still led 28-20 at the end of the first quarter. Memphis sorely misses All-Star Pau Gasol, who got injured while playing for Spain in this summer's FIBA World Championship and will likely not return to action until January. "When Mike Miller leads your team in rebounding, you know there are some difficulties," ESPN's Bill Walton drolly noted.

Here is some interesting news broken by ESPN's Jim Gray during the game: in an effort to better understand his mercurial forward, new Kings Coach Eric Musselman spent several hours poolside in Las Vegas with Ron Artest learning about rap music; perhaps NBA TV will show some footage of that in a future episode of "Real Training Camp." Musselman did not reveal which artists or tracks he listened to but did say this to ESPN about Artest: "He practices with maximum effort every time...his practice habits are second to none...He wants the ball in clutch situations and he does all this while playing defense."

Memphis chipped away at Sacramento's lead until Mike Miller's three pointer brought the Grizzlies to within 44-41. Sacramento closed the half with a flurry--Artest scored on a drive and then Martin tipped the ensuing inbounds pass to Bibby, who nailed a jumper at the buzzer for a 54-49 lead. Stromile Swift led the Grizzlies with 11 first half points (he ended up with 15 in the game), while Artest finished the half with 10 points on 5-8 shooting. Abdur-Rahim and Bibby also had 10 points each.

Atkins' layup with 9:57 remaining in the third quarter gave the Grizzlies not only their first lead versus the Kings but their first lead in two games! Abdur-Rahim immediately answered with a jumper on the next possession, but Atkins scored 11 points in the first four and a half minutes of the quarter, propelling Memphis to a 62-58 advantage. Despite Atkins' Isiah Thomas-like scoring explosion--16 points in the quarter--the Kings recovered to lead 76-70 at the 4:00 mark and 84-77 by the end of the period.

The Kings extended their lead to 96-88 with 7:20 left in the game but less than two and a half minutes later Atkins topped off a 10-0 run with a fast break layup, putting Memphis ahead 99-98 with 4:58 remaining; Atkins scored six of the 10 points. Around that time, Walton wondered what the NBA record is for most points in the second half after not scoring a point in the first half. After a timeout, Martin hit a three pointer to put Sacramento back on top and then Atkins committed an offensive foul on the next possession. The Kings led 109-104 after another Martin three pointer at the 1:06 mark but the Grizzlies kept battling: Swift's two free throws made it a one possession game and after Bibby missed a shot with 27 seconds left Memphis had the ball and an opportunity to tie the game with a three pointer. Instead, Damon Stoudamire drove to the hoop and launched a wildly errant shot. Walton felt that he should have kicked the ball to the open Atkins, who waited in vain behind the three point line; the anguished look on Memphis Coach Mike Fratello's face suggests that he agreed with Walton, but ESPN's Jon Barry defended Stoudamire's play, arguing that there was enough time left to go for a quick two, foul and then try to score again. That may be true, but how often does Stoudamire score when he drives from the top of the key all the way to the hoop? He is not a high flyer or strong finisher; his game is spot up jumpers or pull up shots in the lane. Just look at his career statistics to see what kind of game he has; Stoudamire has shot roughly 1000 more three pointers than free throws during his career. When he attempts the shot that he took near the end of the game he usually either misses badly or is rejected by a waiting big man. Sacramento closed out the win by making six straight free throws.

posted by David Friedman @ 2:01 AM

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