Monday, November 17, 2008

SacBee: Kings misfire late again

By Sam Amick

The final minute showed that the Kings' owners aren't the only ones waiting and watching.

As the team's mascot spun the crank on an old-fashioned alarm in the center of the Arco Arena floor on Sunday night, the announced crowd of 11,699 refused to be impressed by a tie score. Most cheered halfheartedly, and few stood, as if the onus of proving one's self was a prerequisite for support.

The Kings' 90-88 loss to San Antonio was far from enough to inspire confidence in the masses or the front office, as the Kings lost a second consecutive home game since co-owner Joe Maloof questioned the job being done by second-year coach Reggie Theus.

More than that, they did it in a fashion that surely will raise eyebrows from within.

Just as Friday's opponent, Phoenix, had been without a two-time MVP (Steve Nash) and a one-time Sixth Man of the Year (Leandro Barbosa), the Spurs were at a similar disadvantage with absences from injured point guard Tony Parker and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili. The Kings knew the feeling, as two main pieces of their core (Kevin Martin and Francisco García) remained out because of injuries.

And just as defending the three-point line and giving up too many turnovers had been points of emphasis in Maloof's media tour, the Kings finished with 18 giveaways (for 18 points) and allowed the Spurs to hit 9 of 20 from three-point range.

Duncan – so often the reason for open outside looks as the Kings pinched defensively to assist – was just enough in the Spurs' second win in a row. With 15.4 seconds left, he crashed through Kings guard Quincy Douby and hit the 20-point mark on a running right-hander from the left side to put San Antonio ahead by the final margin.

The Kings didn't have a basket in the final 2:30, including their final opportunity when Theus' continuing intent to show confidence in the team's youth didn't pan out again. Douby, who missed an 18-footer at the end of regulation against Phoenix, airballed a three-pointer at the buzzer after coming off a Brad Miller screen atop the key. The Kings airballed their last two attempts, as Miller came up empty with 4.9 seconds left from the right wing.

"On the last play, it was set up," Douby said. "We didn't have a lot of time left, so we needed some screens. I was open. I felt it leave my fingers, and it wasn't a good shot.

"Coach is showing a lot of confidence in me. The one against Phoenix I definitely felt should have gone in. This one, there wasn't a lot of time. I'm just looking forward to the next game."

Rookie Jason Thompson couldn't convert when Theus called his number late, either, as his spin move around Fabricio Oberto in the post and eight-foot attempt fell awry with 32.9 seconds left. Swingman John Salmons had 31 points on 10-of-13 shooting but just two fourth-quarter attempts (both successful). The Kings hit just 5 of 18 shots in the fourth quarter.

The Kings' avoided the Spurs' various traps and defensive roadblocks early to build a 23-15 first-quarter lead.

Salmons' maneuvering led to 10 of his 16 first-half points in the first quarter, and a 15-6 rebounding advantage came mostly because every player in black outside Duncan was being outworked in the paint.

But 10 Kings turnovers by halftime meant the Spurs would recover, and a 6-of-20 shooting effort in the opening period by San Antonio didn't last. Midway through the second quarter, a Duncan chip shot was followed by a Michael Finley three-pointer and layup to give the Spurs a 7-0 run and their first lead, 34-33. An off-target Spencer Hawes hadn't helped matters, as he missed all three of his second-quarter shots and was 1 of 5 for the half. The Spurs – whose 15 first-quarter points were a season low for a Kings opponent in one period – led 43-42 at halftime.

It appears the Kings will have to continue without Martin and García for the immediate future. While Martin (sprained left ankle) had been hopeful of playing on the two-game trip Tuesday in Memphiscq and Wednesday in New Orleans, that does not appear likely. García, whose strained right calf has been far slower to respond than originally expected, has yet to practice or run consistently. His conditioning will be an issue as well, as he has been out of commission since Oct. 18.

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