Kings Still Have Clippers’ Number
Sacramento 96, L.A. Clippers 93
LOS ANGELES, April 7 (Ticker) -- With a chance to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in nine years, the Los Angeles Clippers once again were done in by a familiar foe.
Mike Bibby scored 30 points and Ron Artest added 23, including a pair of huge baskets in the final 70 seconds, as the Sacramento Kings posted a critical 96-93 victory over the Clippers.
"Our goal was to clinch a playoff spot," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "To be up four points with less than two minutes is disappointing to see it slip away."
"I wish I knew," Kings coach Rick Adelman said of the lengthy losing streak against Los Angeles. "I wish I knew. ... I think we hit three or four shots right at the end of the game to beat them. They could have gone the other way. I can't explain it but I'll keep it."
The defensive-minded Artest made 8-of-20 shots, but none bigger than his last two. The volatile forward drilled a 3-pointer with 1:10 remaining to forge a 92-92 tie and knocked down a fadeaway jumper on the Kings' next possession for a 94-92 lead with 34 seconds left.
"Tonight, Artest stepped up huge down the stretch," Adelman said. "He's been terrific for us. He plays hard, and he does everything we asked him to do."
"Ron has come in with toughness and he has been big for us," Bibby said. "He gives us a mismatch on offense. I always joke that we have four power forwards out there because Ron and Bonzi Wells are two big bodies to attack with."
Cuttino Mobley split a pair of free throws to bring the Clippers within 94-93 with 17 seconds left, but Sacramento's Brad Miller made two foul shots to restore a three-point lead.
Sam Cassell and Vladimir Radmanovic each missed potential game-tying 3-pointers in the waning seconds for Los Angeles (44-31), which leads Memphis by one-half game for fifth place in the Western Conference.
Meanwhile, the Kings (40-37) won for the fifth time in six games and moved into a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers, two games ahead of the ninth-place New Orleans Hornets in the race for the final playoff berths in the West.
"You never know what is going to happen this time of the year," Artest said. "I have a goal to reach the playoffs. I just hope I can do my best."
"The best part of getting to this position is that no one thought we could do it," Bibby added. "We just wanted to prove everyone wrong."
Miller contributed 18 points for Sacramento, which won despite making just 23-of-36 free throws and getting dominated, 52-36, on the glass.
Mobley scored 19 points, Cassell and Brand added 17 apiece and Chris Kaman grabbed 15 rebounds for Los Angeles, which shot 43 percent (38-of-87), including just 3-of-17 from the arc.
"Our finish was disappointing," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "I thought we got a little frantic at the end where we had time on the clock and shot the ball quickly. ... Those mistakes, as well as 20 points on turnovers, was the difference in the game."