SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- If Kevin Martin had spared one instant
to think about the obstacles in front of him, he would have
withered before taking the biggest shot of his NBA career.
Sacramento's skinny shooting guard simply didn't consider Tim
Duncan's long arms, the dwindling clock and a potential 0-3 playoff
deficit to the defending NBA champions. He just drove to the hoop
and somehow scored the basket that saved the Kings.
Martin tossed in a twisting, three-bounce, wrong-handed layup
over Duncan as time expired, and the Kings got back into their
first-round playoff series against San Antonio with a 94-93 victory
in Game 3 Friday night, cutting the Spurs' lead to 2-1.
Mike Bibby's pass to Martin on the Kings' final fast break led
to an improbable finish on the second straight game in this series
-- and it made an unlikely hero out of Martin, who had just 10
points and six rebounds in a game dominated by Duncan and the
Kings' veteran starters until his clinching bucket.
"The ball finally bounced our way," said Martin, who claimed
he was simply trying to draw a foul on his remarkable drive to the
hoop. "I knew once Mike gave me the ball, there were only 4
seconds left. I had to go to the rim. There was no choice. I had to
go for it."
This series already has more than its share of drama: The
top-seeded Spurs won an overtime thriller in Game 2, with Brent
Barry's game-tying regulation 3-pointer bouncing twice on the rim
and backboard before falling through.
"Now they know how we felt after that game," said Bonzi Wells,
who had 19 points and 14 rebounds. "The ball was bouncing on the
rim, and went in. Hopefully that's on their mind going into the
Game 4 is Sunday in Sacramento, with Game 5 back in San Antonio
Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter
of Game 3. Michael Finley hit a go-ahead 3-pointer for the Spurs
with 41.1 seconds left, and Ron Artest turned the ball over with 27
seconds remaining in his return from a one-game suspension.
The Spurs ran down the clock until the final seconds, and the
Kings didn't foul despite a mere 3-second difference between the
shot clock and the game clock. But Manu Ginobili capped a terrible
game by losing the ball on a drive for his seventh turnover.
"I just kind of lost it," Ginobili said. "It was the worst
turnover of my career. I really don't know what happened. I'm just
very upset right now. We had the game, and of course I let it go."
Bibby, who had 25 points, rushed the ball to midcourt and fed
Martin. He drove the lane and lofted a right-handed shot from the
left side over Duncan, who blocked six shots in a dominant
performance also featuring 29 points and 12 rebounds.
The ball bounced delicately on the rim before falling through as
the buzzer sounded, setting off pandemonium in Arco Arena.
"I thought they blew the whistle and called a foul, so I didn't
even look back at the ball," Martin said. "I went up with my
right (hand). Actually, I might have thrown it up with both. I
really don't know."
Said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: "Great game. What goes around
comes around, I guess."
Artest had 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Kings, and Bibby
had 25 points and eight assists. Wells and Bibby scored eight
points apiece in the fourth quarter as the Kings survived a
physical final period in a game featuring 48 fouls and 56 free
Artest also turned in a defensive gem on Ginobili after sitting
out Game 2 for elbowing the Argentine forward in the head in Game
1, a 34-point Spurs victory.
Finley scored 17 points, hitting four 3-pointers in the Spurs'
latest outstanding performance by a reserve from their loaded
Duncan made a solid recovery from two sub-par efforts for the
Spurs, but Ginobili and Tony Parker managed just 20 points on
7-of-21 shooting for the defending NBA champions.
"We have to keep our composure and understand that they're
going to have a lot of emotions (in Game 4)," Duncan said. "There
are good things to learn from this game. We just lost on a crazy
Artest couldn't conceal his excitement about being back in
uniform for his first home playoff game with the Kings: He grabbed
the opening tip and drove straight to the hoop for a layup attempt,
drawing a foul from Parker. He scored Sacramento's first six points
and finished the first half with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Sacramento led by 14 points in the third quarter before a 16-5
San Antonio run.
Spurs C Rasho Nesterovic hit the first 3-pointer of his
eight NBA seasons at the first-quarter buzzer. In Game 1, Spurs C
Nazr Mohammed hit the second 3-pointer of his career. ... All four
Maloof brothers, including principal Kings owners Joe and Gavin,
watched the game together at courtside. The brothers stormed the
court in celebration after Martin's basket.