Kings Roll to Eighth Straight Playoff Berth
Sacramento 96, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 79
SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 16 (Ticker) -- Just months from looking like a lottery team, the Sacramento Kings are one of the hotter teams entering the playoffs.
Mike Bibby scored 23 points and Ron Artest had another stellar all-around effort as the Kings clinched their eighth straight postseason berth with a 96-79 rout of the New Orleans Hornets.
"It's a real sense of accomplishment," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We had to fight through so many things. We made the trade, we had injuries, but we just kept coming. I'm really proud of the way they came back. They hung together, and now they're in."
Needing either a win or a loss by Utah to clinch, the Kings had no desire to watch the scoreboard, instead taking matters into their own hands. The Jazz lost at Dallas earlier, putting Sacramento in a few minutes before its game was complete.
Artest finished with 13 points, six rebounds, six assists, no turnovers and started Sacramento's critical surge in the second quarter.
It was Artest who boldly predicted the Kings would make the playoffs following an overtime loss at Toronto on Jan. 29 that left his club a season-worst eight games under .500. Sacramento responded by winning 15 of their next 20, inspired by Artest's defensive intensity and floor leadership.
"I saw the team that I was traded to and I just figured we were good enough to get in the playoffs," Artest said. "I still feel we have a championship caliber team. We're in the playoffs and now our goal is to win the whole thing. Everybody on this team is committed. We're going to walk the walk."
Artest's follow shot gave the Kings a 30-24 lead and kicked off a 14-4 burst. Shareef Abdur-Rahim, who is in the postseason for the first time in 10 seasons in the NBA, capped it with a jumper to make it 42-28 with 4:52 left.
"For me personally, it's good," said Abdur-Rahim, who scored eight points in 22 minutes. "For the organization, just to keep (the playoff streak) rolling is great. As a player you want to compete at the highest level, so it's a good thing for me. More than anything I'm glad I don't have to answer those questions anymore."
"I think we're throwing a party for (Abdur-Rahim) tonight, cake and everything," Bibby joked.
Sacramento took a commanding 54-35 lead into halftime and led by at least 15 points throughout the second half.
Bonzi Wells chipped in 16 points for the Kings, who are one game behind the seventh-place Los Angeles Lakers with one to play. Sacramento owns the tiebreaker between the two teams.
"I'm happy to be part of this thing we're going through this year," said Wells, who is making his eighth straight playoff appearance. "A lot of people were down on us, and we turned this thing around. It's time for us to make our run. I know the coaching staff is ready, and the players are starting to feel good about ourselves a bit."
"It feels good," said Bibby, who made at least three 3-pointers for the sixth straight game. "It always feels good, but it's not over yet. We've got one more game to play (Tuesday against Seattle)."
Rookie Chris Paul scored 12 points to pace the Hornets (38-42), who were eliminated from playoff contention when the Kings won in Denver on Saturday. Just two other Hornets reached double figures.
"There are some guys that didn't prove (they want to play)," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "If they don't look at this as a chance to get some playing time and legitimize the fact they belong in this league, then they are going to be in trouble."