Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

April 30, 2006
Marty McNeal: Game 4 setup

The Kings were thisclose to seeing their season come to a virtual end Friday night.

Now another dose of resuscitation is needed to revitalize them as well place a little bit of pressure on the Spurs. Should the Kings be able to win tonight, this really will be a series.

Even though the Kings still would potentially have to play two of the next three games in San Antonio, they would have put their stamp on the series and made the Spurs aware that it will take a monumental effort to get through to the Conference finals.

This situation is old-hat for the Spurs, many of whom never even have lost a first-round series.

But pressure can affect anyone and everyone, and the Spurs are no different. Right now, though, they donít have any such pressure on them and wonít unless the Kings win Game 4.

You still think Brad Miller can make a victory so much more attainable just by taking and making his shots? The same goes for Kenny Thomas, who just walked by and made me think about how invisible he was in Game 3.

I hope Mike Bibby remembers his game is at its best when he slows it down.

April 30, 2006
Marty McNeal: Game 4 is on!

At least the Kings donít to deal with the Game 3 officiating crew of Bennett Salvatore, Ken Mauer and Sean Corbin, who helped stink up todayís Lakers-Phoenix game. The next time those three cats call a playoff game, two of them should have to use tickets to get in.

However, with the NBAís absence of truly good officials, the Kings and Spurs received one of my old favorites in Jimmy Clark. Heís the dude who at some point during every game looks to the arenaís ceiling. All of that searching for Devine intervention and Clark still is a bad referee, who sees things on a regular basis that donít occur.

There is no worse kind of official, except for those who donít see things that do occur, and Clark is one of those, too.

Clark made his mark early in the contest when he whistled Ron Artest for plowing through a pick set by Tim Duncan. It may even have been a good call, but it wasnít his. From Clarkís angle, he would have needed Supermanís vision to see through Duncan.

Itís calls like those that can kill a player or team after the fact.

Ask the Suns, who saw Shawn Marion get two really bad whistles for his fourth and fifth fouls in the fourth quarter. The sixth-called foul was legit, but it was too late. He was on the bench when he should have only had four fouls.

As for free-throw shooting, it was supposed to be an advantage for the Kings, but Sacramento came into Game 4 shooting 81.3 percent (74 of 91). The longer the Kings can extend the series, the odds say San Antonio will not be able to keep pace. But itís hard to think free-throw shooting at Arco Arena without thinking about the Kings punking-up in the 2002 Western Conference finals Game 7 in 2002 against the Lakers.

Itís so hard to watch Kenny Thomas and/or Brad Miller pass up open 15-footers. Tonight, Millerís taking his and Thomas is bypassing them. This is the only team I know about where the dilemma is making guys shoot instead of stopping them from gunning.

Spurs made early adjustments to sink further into lane it seems and the Kings are getting caught in air trying to pass instead of shooting. Sacramento had four early turnovers but Spurs had just two points from them.

Parker is making jumpers while Kings play off him. Heíd have to make them all night before Iíd pressure him any more.

Before the game, Miller was talking with a dude from the Spurs. The cat asked him to take the night off for him.

Said Miller, ďI already did that the first two games.Ē

Watching Manu Ginobili and Kevin Martin go at each other means two of the most unorthodox and athletic scoring guards are on display. Martin came off the bench for Ron Artest and scored 10 points in 10 minutes of the first quarter.

The Kings ended the half on a 20-7 run, led by seven points by Artest, five from Mike Bibby and four by an amazingly aggressive Miller, to lead 54-43.

Bonzi Wells finished the half with nine rebounds. At one point, the Spurs only had 10 rebounds as a team before finishing with 13. Eight of Wells boards came at the defensive end as the Spurs had just one offensive rebound. If the Kings can continue anything close to rebounding at this 22-13 pace and donít turn over the rock, theyíll be good to go.

April 29, 2006
KingsPod No. 4

KingsPod No. 4

(6:25) - posted April 29

Martin McNeal talks about the Kings' thrilling Game 3 victory and looks ahead to Game 4 vs. the San Antonio Spurs.

April 28, 2006
Marty McNeal: Kings' big win

When it comes to an amazing change of fortune, itíll be difficult to find something more dramatic than this. Call it a season extended.

Trailing the defending champions without the ball is not the way you want to come out of a time out with precious seconds left in a game you absolutely must have.

However, it turned out better tonight than ever could have been imagined.

Mike Bibby reached in on the driving Manu Ginobili and stole the ball off the dribble. Bibby fed Kevin Martin, who raced into the front-court alongside San Antonioís Tim Duncan and took the ball to the basket.

Martin protected the ball with his body, shielding Duncan, before he awkwardly laid the ball in off the glass. The ball bounced three times before settling down the net and setting off a wild celebration.

It was as wild for Kings fans and their owners as it was disconsolate for the Spurs, who looked towards the officiating crew of Bennett Salvatore, Ken Mauer and Sean Corbin for help and received none.

At first glance, it appeared as if Bibby fouled the heck out of Ginobili.

However, thatís life in the NBA. You get away with what you can.

April 28, 2006
Marty McNeal: Halftime of Game 3

Speaking of opportunities wasted, the Kings displayed exactly what I meant at the end of the first quarter when they allowed Tony Parker to catch a pass near halfcourt after Bonzi Wells shot free-throws with 3.2 seconds.

Parker, perhaps the leagueís fastest player, utilized the on-the-run catch to apply pressure on the Kings defense and suck it in. Parker passed to Rasho Nesterovic, yes, the seven-footer, who made a three-pointer at the buzzer to get the Spurs within 22-20 entering the second quarter. Nesterovicís three was the first of his career. So, there was some element of surprise.

However, for teams getting good looks against the Kings in those situations, there are many precedents. Far too many times this season, the Kings either have relaxed or been ill-prepared to slow teams going coast-to-coast during the final moments of quarters.

Think those three points may come in handy sometime later tonight.

The defensive talents of Ron Artest showed up early in the game when he blocked a running tear-drop by Parker. Itís one of the All-Star guardís pet shots and I canít remember seeing it get blocked before.

At practice the other day, Bibby said he will continue to look to get Brad Miller shots and did that during the first quarter. Miller took five shots in the first, scoring four points. Little steps, baby. Little steps.

Bonzi Wells was missing layups and following them up with buckets like he spent the past two days watching that ďFundamentals of BasketballĒ video by Moses Malone. However, the larger point is, I donít know how much Wells Ė the free-agent-to-be this summer Ė will demand, but to break up that power, bruising duo of Artest and Wells, should be something the Kings avoid all almost all costs.

Thereís 34 seconds left in the first quarter when Ginobili pump-fakes Artest and leans into him. Artest never moves and gets whistled for a weak foul. Then the referees attempt to explain to Adelman how they were right when they were wrong. Nothing phonier than an official doing that. Just shut up and walk away.

For the second time this series, one of the Kings came away from a play with no blood and no foul. Guess that does away with that no-blood, no-foul concept.

Wells came away with an offensive rebound during the final minute of the half and then went down to his knees in the lane. A few seconds later, Beno Udrih, San Antonioís third point guard, scored a layup at the other end, and Sacramentoís 12-point lead had been whittled to four points.

Artest scored on a power move to conclude the Kingsí scoring and give them a 47-41 halftime lead.

But 12 points down to six. There we go again with the opportunities wasted. And Bibby needs to slow down or his 2-for-9 shooting is going to turn into 4-for-18. Heís going too fast when his game, like Miller, should be to kill the opposition slowly.

April 28, 2006
Marty McNeal: Game 3 is on!

You heard the term ďmust-winĒ incorrectly used many times during the the regular-season.
This is your must-win game! If the Kings lose this one, they are done. The season is over, with just another loss, potentially Sunday, as the death-knell.
And that is a pressure they put on themselves by losing Game 2 in San Antonio.
It was a game they should have won, but lost, just like Games 2 and 3 in the Western Conference semifinals against the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004.
So the Kings are attempting to do at least two things that usually arenít accomplished. Theyíve given away a game in a seven-game series and now have to overcome a two-game deficit. And they have to do so against the defending world champion San Antonio Spurs, who have more talent this season than they did while winning the title last year.
Usually, when a team upsets a more highly-favored and talented squad, itís accomplished by taking advantage of every opportunity presented. So the Kings have made this job even more difficult than it should have been.
Then again, whatís new?
Sacís off to a good start, 13-12 midway through the first.

April 26, 2006
KingsPod No. 3

Beat writer Sam Amick talks looks back at the Kings heartbreaking Game 2 overtime loss in San Antonio and looks ahead to Game 3 on Friday at Arco Arena.
Download KingsPod No. 3

April 26, 2006
Voisin: Long night in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO -- Sitting here in the press room at the AT&T Center, in the wee hours on Tuesday, it is still hard to comprehend how the Kings lost this game. Even more perplexing, is how they could have been on the verge of a shocking victory without their three most important players making major contributions.

Ron Artest, of course, was somewhere in the area watching the game on television. But Mike Bibby and Brad Miller -- touted as two-thirds of the team nucleus as recently as midseason -- were outplayed by several of their teammates. Miller, who offered only one rebound in the series opener here Saturday, played 27 minutes and spent most of the fourth quarter and overtime on the bench. Bibby, who emerged as such a clutch postseason performer before his struggles last year against the Seattle Sonics, converted only 3 of 16 shots and committed five turnovers.

I wondered if he had become fatigued, thereby becoming careless with his passes. He played 48 minutes, which is a lot for anyone, especially a player who is relatively slight for his position (6-foot-2, 180 pounds), and is his clubís primary ballhandler and leading scorer. The Spursí Tony Parker, by comparison, played 43 minutes.

But Bibby insisted that he was fine. He acknowledged that he just rushed a few shots, but that was about it. One thing is for certain, though. The Kings need more out of Bibby and Miller if they plan to extend this series -- which they certainly appear capable of doing. Tim Duncan just doesnít look right. One longtime NBA coach I spoke with recently said Duncanís right foot problem (plantar fasciitis) is worse than the Spurs are admitting, and said he wouldnít double-team the two-time MVP unless he established a dominant inside presence. Interestingly, Shareef Abdur-Rahim repeatedly scored on the 6-foot-11 Duncan in the fourth quarter, mostly with jump hooks. Who expected that?

Another thing I found intriguing last night, was that whatever tension exists between Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas seems to have subsided, at least temporarily. The Kingsí high-low game -- Thomas usually finding Abdur-Rahim down low -- was very effective, and the two power forwards, who were on the court together much of the night, really appeared to be looking for each other. I was really impressed with the way Kings coach Rick Adelman had his players prepared, emotionally as well as tactically, given the tenor of Saturdayís loss, along with his decision to go with Abdur-Rahim and Thomas, particularly in light of Millerís ineffectiveness. Though the lineup is undersize, the Kings play a faster, more athletic game. Gotta fix that defense, though. Abdur-Rahim was candid about his mistake on Brent Barryís three. He failed to stay with Duncan, who set the screen that kept Bibby from chasing after Barry in the right corner.

April 24, 2006
Voisin: Spurs look improved

Not to take anything away from the Detroit Pistons, but the more time I spend around the San Antonio Spurs, the more confidence I have in my preseason prediction that the Spurs will repeat as champions. Gregg Popovichís teams always defend tenaciously.

But their offense is more fluid than in the past - their ball movement in Game 1 was absolutely stunning - and their depth is terrific. Michael Finley and Nick Van Exel just add more dimensions to an already-talented roster. If Tim Duncan can avoid aggravating his right foot ailment and Tony Parker continues to perform like he did the other night, no one is going to touch the Spurs. They are an absolute pleasure to watch, skilled and unselfish, and much more entertaining now that they play at a faster pace.

As I wrote several months back, I also believe Popovich should have been named the 2008 U.S. Olympic coach. Besides being more knowledgeable about the international game than any other NBA head coach with the exception of Mike DíAntoni, he possesses all the skills of the great head coaches. He is a stickler for details, as demanding as it gets, and can be a bit of a control freak. But he is also a great communicator and has become much more comfortable in his role as a public figure.

Besides, he loves good food and fine wine. During off-days on road trips to Golden State or Sacramento, Pop usually makes a side trip to Napa or Sonoma.

April 24, 2006
Slideshow: Kings-Spurs matchups

In case you missed it on Saturday, Martin McNeal talks through the matchups, looking at the starters for the Kings and the Spurs. Watch it here.

April 24, 2006
KingsPod No. 2

Beat writer Sam Amick talks looks back at the Game 1 blowout loss in San Antonio and looks ahead to Game 2 on Tuesday.
Download the podcast

April 22, 2006
Ailene Voisin: Tough talk, tough player

Geez, this was pathetic. The only thing salvaging the evening here in San Antonio -- which included an absolutely horrible basketball game -- was that very little was made about Ron Artestís prediction. Maybe now we can all get on with the series. For those who might have missed it: Artest envisions himself as the team leader, and accordingly, at times feels almost compelled to thrust out his chest and say something outlandish to seemingly take the pressure off his teammates.

Before the series against the defending world champion San Antonio Spurs, the veteran small forward, who missed the playoffs with the Indiana Pacers last year because of his season-ending suspension, repeatedly proclaimed that the Kings would advance into the second round. And I donít have a problem with that. In fact, I applaud his competitiveness.

What was he supposed to say? That he expected the Spurs to win? Saturday nightís debacle notwithstanding, his intensity is refreshing. He plays hard, and as was evident last night, he plays hurt. After Manu Ginobili tagged him with an inadvertent elbow to the mouth a mere 18 seconds into the game, Artest crumpled to the court, yet played 35 minutes with a lip that became so inflamed that he was unable to speak with reporters afterward -- an almost unheard of occurrence.

One of the most impressive things about Artest, in fact, is his candor. He doesnít censor his thoughts or his words. People either accept him or they donít. And given that players and coaches often are inhibited for fear of harming their image, Iíll take candid mortals over carefully-guarded corporate clones any day.

April 19, 2006
Kings podcast No. 1

With the regular season over, it's time to look toward the playoffs. Marty McNeal and Ailene Voisin will be blogging all through the postseason, and today marks the debut of Marty in The Bee's podcasts on the Kings. Check it out, and look for more after every game of the playoffs.

Download the podcast

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