Sacramento 135, Charlotte 120

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Feb. 28 (AP) -- With Ron Artest sidelined, Kevin Martin and Mike Bibby knew they had to pick up the scoring slack for the Sacramento Kings.

Even they couldn't have predicted a night like this, when seemingly every shot they took ended up in the basket.

Martin scored 36 points and Bibby had 26 of his 30 in the second half, helping the Kings snap out of a slump with a 135-120 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night.

"As long as they keep falling, I'm going to keep shooting,'' said Martin, who shot 13-for-19. "We knew that without Ron Artest tonight we would have to step up our game as a team. Mike's a proven scorer and I can score the ball a little, too.''

Bibby hit a Sacramento record-tying six of his seven 3-pointers in the second half to lead the Kings to their third win in nine games. Sacramento set season highs by shooting 63 percent from the field and scoring 135 points to give coach Eric Musselman his 100th career win.

Bibby hit 3-pointers on back-to-back trips midway through the fourth quarter to put the Kings up 118-106 with 4:25 remaining.

"My shot felt good tonight, especially because I barely felt like I was putting any effort into it,'' Bibby said. "I probably felt the best tonight I have all season. You're going to have nights like tonight where the ball is going in.''

Former King Gerald Wallace scored 31 points to lead the Bobcats, who have lost three straight after a season-high four-game winning streak. Matt Carroll and Raymond Felton added 19 points apiece.

That wasn't nearly enough to overcome Martin and Bibby. They combined to score 28 of Sacramento's 34 points in the third quarter, helping extend a four-point halftime lead to 96-88 heading into the fourth.

After taking the blame for Sacramento's loss at Philadelphia on Monday night, Musselman gave the credit for this win to Martin and Bibby.

"It's a players' league,'' he said. "Mike Bibby got hot and we looked pretty good. When Kevin Martin is doing what he's doing and Mike's doing what he's doing offensively, we're a pretty good basketball team.''

For Bibby, the second half was a welcome break from a shooting slump during which he was 4-for-18 in the previous game and a half. For Martin, it was a continuation from a first half in which he scored 18 points.

A 3-pointer by Bibby midway through the third began a stretch when the two showed off their long-range shooting skills. Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff got a technical after Bibby's 3, arguing for a travel earlier in the sequence. Bibby hit the free throw to make it 76-69. Bibby made another 3 on Sacramento's next trip.

After a layup by Carroll, Martin connected from long range. Bibby hit a 3 on the next trip and then Martin converted a three-point play the next time down to make it 88-76. In all, the two scored 16 points in a stretch of 2:31.

"(Bibby's) that type of player. When he gets it going, he'll kill you,'' Charlotte guard Brevin Knight said. "If you score 120 points, most nights you figure you have a good chance to win. But they made shots all game. What can you do?''

Bibby and Martin each scored 14 points in the quarter, missing only one of 10 shots between them -a 3-pointer by Bibby early in the quarter.

With both teams' top defensive players - Emeka Okafor of Charlotte and Artest - out with injuries, it was an up-tempo game for the offenses. Sacramento drove to the basket at will, creating opportunities for open 3-pointers and drawing fouls that led to 50 free throws.

"It's frustrating for us, because sometimes I feel like they're getting to the line and we're not really committing the foul,'' Carroll said. "Obviously, the referees are making the calls. I guess we're going to have to look back at the tapes.''

Wallace kept the Bobcats in the game early, scoring off a nifty alley-oop pass from Felton on his way to a 19-point first half. Martin was almost as good for Sacramento, scoring 18 in the half, including a driving layup that gave the Kings a 62-58 lead at the break.

Notes: Mitch Richmond also hit six 3-pointers in a half for the Kings, doing it Feb. 26, 1997. ... Okafor missed his second straight game with a strained calf. Bickerstaff said he wasn't sure when Okafor would be back. Bickerstaff also said Sean May would miss the rest of the road trip with a sore knee. ... Artest also sat out with a sore knee. ... Musselman is 100-121 in his career.


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