Bull-ish Kings steal one
Kevin Martin caps a late surge with the winning jumper in a victory over Chicago.
By Sam Amick - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 1:08 am PST Saturday, November 4, 2006
CHICAGO - Joe Maloof looked exasperated, sweat dripping from the Kings co-owner's forehead as if he was the one who had pulled the early-season stunner.
With his brother, Phil, on the other end of the cell-phone conversation, Joe squeezed short breaths between his words of relief.
"We all needed this," he said.
This, to be clear, had every appearance of being a repeat act of opening night -- the Kings rebuilding a visitor's arena with bricks and first-year coach Eric Musselman still waiting for his first win. And this, of course, came at a time when a new era had shared the spotlight with arena issues and an off-court incident involving the coach, dimming some spirits among those who run the organization.
But when they finally came back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit, when Kevin Martin's 18-footer from the right wing with six seconds left fell through and the Kings had pulled out the 89-88 shocker, it was Musselman's reaction that said it all.
He leapt from the United Center floor as if so much weight had been lifted, his fists pumping in the air as he rushed the court and let out screams of joy.
"The non-panic when we were down, allowing us as coaches to say, 'Let's go for the two, we don't need a three-ball, we can foul ... ' " Musselman said. "That clock, that last minute, there are so many possessions in an NBA game. And I thought our guys did a great job of believing even when it didn't look real good."
It was a final minute that showed many things -- a coach with the capability to be a masterful tactician, a list of clutch players that now goes longer than Mike Bibby, and a bench with young talents who, at least for a night, showed their ability to be quality role players.
With the Kings down 85-80 and 57 seconds left, small forward Ron Artest, who recovered from a 1-of-11 shooting start to hit 7 of 20 for 22 points, drove for a layup. He hit another layup with 23 seconds left, the Kings closing in at 86-84. Nine seconds and two free throws from Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich later, Bibby registered his first clutch shot of the season, a fadeaway three-pointer from the left corner that cut the Bulls' lead to 88-87.
Then came the first of Musselman's two key defensive adjustments. After a Bulls timeout, he inserted swingman Francisco García to do what Artest had not been able to -- guard Bulls forward Luol Deng (29 points) -- with 12 seconds left. García, who had sat for 44 of the first 46 minutes, pressured Deng, who couldn't reach an inbound pass from Bulls point guard Chris Duhon that sailed out of bounds.
On the other end, Bibby drove the lane, drew the defense in and found Martin on the wing for the game-winner. The game was not secure, though, until point guard Ronnie Price -- who hadn't played since his two second-quarter minutes -- fulfilled his assignment on Duhon. He drove Duhon to the right, his pressure forcing him to dribble off his foot and complete the comeback. Martin finished with a career-high 30 points, hitting 10 of 15 shots.
The Kings, who had just 34 points on 10-of-36 shooting (27.8 percent) in the first half, scored on eight of their final 10 possessions. Bibby said the late cohesion should serve as a wake-up call for how their offense needs to operate.
"We didn't give up," said Bibby, whose only fourth-quarter field goal came at the opportune time as he finished with 23 points, nine assists and 11 turnovers. "But everybody can't be worried about points. Coach has to put it in people's heads what their role is.
"One guy comes and jacks up a shot, and the next guy says, 'I'm going to get one (shot), too.' You can't do that. We've got to share the ball."