SACRAMENTO, Calif., April 28 (Ticker) -- Kevin Martin
's heroics kept
the Sacramento Kings from the brink of elimination.
Martin connected on a buzzer-beating layup over the outstretched
arms of Tim Duncan
as the Kings pulled out a critical 94-93
triumph over the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in Game
Three of their Western Conference first-round series.
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After winning the first two games of the series, the Spurs held
a 93-92 advantage and possession with only 27 seconds left in
this one. Manu Ginobili
wound down the clock before attempting
to drive toward the basket to stretch the advantage.
However, Mike Bibby
stripped the ball from the nimble Argentine
and quickly raced to the other end where he hit a charging
Martin, whose layup agonizingly bounced along the rim before
finally falling through the hoop as time expired.
"I couldn't believe it was going to go in," Bibby said. "I was
standing underneath the rim and just saw it bounce around and
around. I'm glad it bounced our way this time."
Martin, who stepped in for suspended forward Ron Artest
scored 26 points in an overtime loss in Game Two, answered
succinctly when asked if the game-winning layup was the biggest
shot of his career.
"By far," he said.
"I thought they blew the whistle and called a foul, so I didn't
even look at the ball," Martin added. "I was just trying to get
to the free-throw line and just threw it up, and it went in.
The key to the game-winning shot was the defense of Artest, who
harassed Ginobili into seven turnovers, including the crucial
last one to rescue the Kings.
"Ron was playing good defense and putting pressure on
(Ginobili), which caused him to fumble the ball," Bibby said. "I
just tried to get in there. I was going to leave Tony (Parker
open if I had to and just go for the steal. Once I got it, I
didn't think I was going to make it down the court, but Kevin
always breaks out so it was a helluva finish by Kevin."
"I'm just figuring out how to play those screens because Manu
comes off those a hundred miles an hour," Artest said. "Tonight,
I figured out a little bit better, but I'm sure they will make
The victory was critical for the eighth-seeded Kings, who would
have faced a 0-3 deficit with a loss. No team in NBA playoff
history has ever made up a three-game deficit to win a series.
"We needed this game, it was a must-win for us," Bibby said. "We
didn't give up. We'll see (if momentum) is with us the next
Top-seeded San Antonio rallied from a 15-point third quarter
deficit behind Duncan, who collected 29 points, 12 rebounds and
six blocks. Michael Finley
, who scored all 17 of his points in
the second half, drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Spurs a 93-92
advantage with 41 seconds remaining.
"I had pretty good looks at the basket," said Finley, who made
4-of-7 from the arc. "We knew it was going to be nip and tuck.
This is the playoffs and the Kings are a good team. We knew it
might come down to a shot like that."
After drilling 23 3-pointers over the first two games, San
Antonio cooled off in Game Three, hitting just 6-of-20 from long
range. However, the Spurs were were still in position to win
thanks to Duncan.
"I feel like we wasted (Duncan) tonight," Spurs coach
said. "We had a tough time getting those kind of games
from him this season, so when he does get one of those, we'd
like to win."
Bibby scored 25 and Bonzi Wells
collected 19 and a playoff
career-high 14 rebounds for Sacramento, which will try to even
the series when it hosts Game Four on Sunday.
"Ron and Bonzi were great tonight, they got to the basket, got
to the free-throw line, they got layups," Duncan said. "For a
stretch there, I thought we did a good job stopping that and
that's what kind of got us back into the game. Down the stretch
it was just back-and-forth, who could make a stop."
"We've got to take this win and maybe celebrate for 10 minutes,
(then) leave it alone because there's a new game coming up on
Sunday," Artest said.