Artest Helps Kings Roll Past Grizzlies
Sacramento 105, Memphis 93
SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 10 (Ticker) -- The forceful play of Ron Artest is behind the Sacramento Kings' playoff push.
Artest scored 19 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter as the surging Kings climbed back to .500 with their third straight win, a 105-93 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"All these wins are big," said Bibby, who scored 15 points in the final two quarters. "We came out in the second half, let them back in a couple of times, but then we pulled away and got the stops when we needed to."
Sacramento was 18-26 on Jan. 30 but has won 13 of its last 18 games behind Artest, who was acquired in January from Indiana and has infused the Kings with his tenacious two-way play.
"We're really making our push," Artest said. "We're not satisified with .500. This team can beat anybody. We just have to stay focused and play together. We haven't peaked yet."
"We've made tremendous strides," Sacramento coach Rick Adelman said. "We have nine guys on this team who have been with us less than 60 games. We just have to keep working and finding our way, and I think this team can do it. There are 20 games left, we're in the hunt. Now let's see what we can do."
The Kings held a 78-68 lead entering the fourth quarter before the Grizzlies rallied behind former King Bobby Jackson, whose 3-pointer made it 82-79 with 8:45 to play.
Bibby made two free throws and a layup around a follow shot by Artest to rebuild the lead to 88-81. After a nifty lefthanded shot by Memphis All-Star Pau Gasol, Artest twice muscled his way inside and made four free throws for a 92-81 lead with 5:57 to play.
Gasol had a follow dunk, but Artest overpowered Shane Battier for a three-point play, then got loose for a fast-break layup before Brad Miller's jumper made it 98-83 with 3:47 remaining.
"(Battier) was playing some pretty good defense, but he's kind of small for me," the 6-7, 260-pound Artest said. "I was just in the rhythm."
"Ron Artest played great," Memphis guard Chucky Atkins said. "He was a handful tonight. We couldn't stop him. Shane did a great job fighting him, but I think he may have run out of gas especially when they got so many offensive rebounds."
Sacramento outrebounded Memphis, 28-20, in the second half, including a 12-5 advantage on the offensive glass. Memphis also committed 18 turnovers that led to 26 points for Sacramento.
"Every loss is frustrating in different ways," Gasol said. "[T]onight it was just a matter of us not taking care of the ball, while they were making all the shots and getting offensive rebounds."
Kenny Thomas had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kevin Martin scored 13 points apiece for Sacramento, which overcame 42 percent (36-of-86) shooting by sinking 30-of-37 free throws.
"We're really playing together," Abdur-Rahim said. "Everybody is doing whatever they can do to chip in and help. (Artest) made plays for himself or other guys. That's what we expect."
The Kings have not missed the postseason since 1998. They are one-half game behind New Orleans/Oklahoma City for the final postseason berth in the Western Conference.
It was the 300th straight sellout at ARCO Arena, which has become a house of horrors for the Grizzlies. They have lost 16 straight visits here since April 19, 1998, when they were in Vancouver and Sacramento was in the draft lottery.
"It feels like the old days," said Bibby, who started his career with the Grizzlies. "Everybody is back with us."
Gasol had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Jackson scored 14 points for Memphis, which shot 47 percent (36-of-76) but attempted just 14 free throws.
Bibby warmed up in the third quarter, scoring nine points as the Kings turned a 57-52 deficit into a 10-point lead.
The Kings, who have been using a very short bench, lost reserve forward Bonzi Wells to an Achilles strain in the third quarter. Wells expects to play Sunday, when Sacramento hosts Dallas, one of the deepest teams in the NBA.