Kings bolster playoff chances with win over Spurs

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- If this was a preview of a first-round
matchup in the NBA playoffs, the defending champion San Antonio
Spurs will see a demanding opponent in the Sacramento Kings. And
they'll see plenty of Mike Bibby.

Bibby played in all but 2:36 of the game, and he scored 31
points, had eight assists and seven rebounds to lead the Kings to a
97-87 victory Wednesday night.

The Kings (39-37) currently are the eighth seed in the Western
Conference. The Spurs (58-17) have the top seed.

The Kings bounced back from their worst defeat of the season, a
26-point loss at Dallas on Tuesday.

"If we play like we did tonight, I see us going far in the
playoffs," Bibby said. "If we play like last night (against
Dallas), no way."

The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Spurs.

Tony Parker led San Antonio with 16 points.

"I thought Sacramento played great tonight," Spurs coach Gregg
Popovich said. "Bibby was great. We just didn't play our normal
game, and it cost us."

It didn't take long for the Kings to build a double-digit lead.

Sacramento took a 26-22 lead after the first quarter by shooting
50 percent from the floor. Ron Artest didn't miss any of this three
tries, including a 3-pointer 1:11 into the game.

Artest hit another 3-pointer early in the second quarter -- his
fourth basket in four tries overall -- to give the Kings an 11-point

Sacramento led by 13 points at halftime and built a 19-point
lead with 6:14 remaining. The Spurs failed to cut the lead to less
than double digits the rest of the way.

Artest scored 15 points. Bonzi Wells added 19 for Sacramento.

"We played solid all the way through," Kings coach Rick
Adelman said. "We beat the best team in the West at their place.
If we keep playing at this level we are going to put ourselves in
great position for the playoffs."

Sacramento has a two-game lead over New Orleans for the eighth
playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans kept pace with
the Kings on Wednesday, defeating Golden State in overtime.

But time is running out. Sacramento has six games remaining and
has won four of its last five.

San Antonio has a two-game lead over Southwest Division-rival
Dallas for the best record in the West. The Spurs and Mavericks
meet for the final time in the regular season on Friday in San

The Kings handed the Spurs their fifth loss at home this season,
and the two games they lost to San Antonio this season were by a
total of four points.

If the current seeds hold, the Spurs will see a far different
opponent than they did earlier in the season when they won the two
close games against the Kings. Before Wednesday, the Spurs and
Kings last played on Dec. 17. Sacramento acquired Artest in the
trade with Indiana on Jan. 25.

"They are more physical," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "We
are going to use (this game) to know them better. The last time
that we played was a long time ago. So it's going to be good to
know them if we really play them."

The Spurs shot 41 percent from the floor compared to 48 percent
for the Kings.

The Kings didn't dip very far into their bench. But they were
efficient when they went there.

Sacramento pulled two players off the bench in the first half
and got a combined 17 points from Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kevin
Martin. Each player was 4-for-7, including a 3-pointer from Martin.

Abdur-Rahim finished with 16 points in 24 minutes; Martin added

The Kings shot 5-of-24 from 3-point range at Dallas, but shot
9-for-18 from the 3-point line against San Antonio.

Game notes
The Kings play Friday at the Los Angeles Clippers, but
follow with four of their remaining five games at home. ... The
Kings held their opponents to less than 100 points in 13 games
before the 127 points scored by Dallas on Tuesday. ... Four
technical fouls were called during the first half, including
consecutive calls on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan and
another 48 seconds later against Artest. ... The Spurs trailed by
double digits for the second consecutive home game. San Antonio
fell behind by 10 against Washington in the third quarter on
Saturday, but still won 106-99.