The Kings are embarking on their late-season tour of ruination. Their best player is resting his ankle, and they are not playing for much other than lottery positioning.
Yet they are playing games with real meaning to their opponents. Tonight they wrap up a five-day period with games against the Rockets, Spurs and Nuggets, so they have had real chances to upset another team's playoff positioning with a surprise win.
So far, as expected, the Kings have lost all those games.
But Sunday they almost beat the undermanned Spurs. With the Spurs' usual bench now starting in place of the likes of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the Kings' bench had a nice run that gave the Kings a second-quarter lead which the team managed to cling to until the closing minutes.
The Spurs got a rebound with about 25 seconds left and the game tied. Tony Parker then rolled into the lane, and kicked it out to Michael Finley, who nailed a jumper which you can plainly see in this video was after the shot clock had expired. That kind of thing is nearly impossible to get right every time in real time, and the referees can't use instant replay to review shot clock violations. So to the amazement of everyone who loves fairness and the Kings, the play stood, and after a well-covered Andres Nocioni miss, the Spurs had their win.
So there was a bad call, which happens. But does that mean that in this particular case the referees gave the game away?
I was tempted to write about how this one little officiating snafu could have radically altered the playoff race in the West. And it's true, it could have. But I couldn't bring myself to get too indignant about it. Maybe I'm brainwashed by the uniforms, but I have this sneaking suspicion the Kings would have not scored in that final second, and in overtime I prefer the very well-coached Spurs who have the best player on the floor in Tony Parker.
You agree? Here's my question to you:
It's 92-92 with about (correction) THREE seconds left. (A shot clock violation would have occurred before the ball sailed through the air from Finley's hands.)
Kings have the ball and homecourt advantage.
The Spurs are playing without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or George Hill.
The Kings are playing without Kevin Martin or any real need to win (indeed, this was the game when the Kings secured the pole position in the NBA draft lottery).
The only player with more than four fouls was Nocioni, with five.
Except for Spencer Hawes, the Kings' starters have generally had a long night.
Who's your pick in that setting?
UPDATE: Key point from Dwight Jaynes: Finley's horn clearly did not beat the clock, but it certainly did beat the buzzer, which was not in sync.
UPDATE: And now word from a TrueHoop reader that he has the game recorded and in fact the link above has incorrect, possibly manipulated, audio. In the TrueHoop reader's recording, the horn sounds along with the shot clock reaching zero.
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images)