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Martin, Bibby lead Kings to fourth straight win

Feb 9, 2007 - 8:00 AM SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- Kevin Martin and the Sacramento Kings finally are putting it all together.

In a sloppy contest, Martin scored 29 points and Mike Bibby added 21, including two clutch baskets down the stretch, as the Sacramento Kings matched a season high with their fourth straight win, an 86-77 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

After winning four in a row from November 6-15 as part of an 8-5 start to the season, the Kings have gone just 13-21 since. However, they have reeled off an impressive streak and now are just two games behind Denver (23-24) for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"We played the three teams in front of us the last three games (before Chicago), so we knew those were like two-for-one, but we've got to beat the other teams, too," Martin said. "We are starting to get into a groove after not liking our standings. We have been playing good basketball lately."

One of the most efficient players in the league, Martin is averaging 20.7 points on 50 percent shooting through 45 games this season. On Thursday, it was no different as Martin was 9-of-16 from the field, nailing numerous tough jumpers from the perimeter, and 9-of-12 from the line.

However, Kings coach Eric Musselman thought it was his team's defensive effort that sparked the victory.

"I think our team did a great job defensively," Musselman said. "Our energy and effort at the defensive end was phenomenal. The guys did a great job of executing both in the zone and (man-to-man defense)."

Leading, 76-65, with six minutes remaining, Sacramento allowed Chicago to reel off seven straight points capped by Kirk Hinrich's jumper to make it 76-72 with 4:09 left.

That's when Bibby stepped up. Answering the run, the star guard nailed contested jumpers on back-to-back possessions to increase the Kings' advantage to 80-72 with just under three minutes remaining and squelch the Bulls' rally.

"We'll take it. We've been on kind of a hot streak," Bibby said. "We definitely didn't shoot the ball well tonight but got the stops when we needed to and made the big buckets when we needed to."

Sacramento forward Ron Artest agreed that the team could have played better.

"When we were losing I had confidence in this team, but now that we are winning, I'm not all that satisfied because I know we can keep doing better," Artest said. "We are playing the same basic basketball, but our team effort and energy has been the key of late."

Luol Deng scored 20 points and Hinrich added 18 for Chicago, which shot just 33 percent (34-of-102) and dropped to 8-16 on the road, with 10 of the losses coming against Western Conference opponents.

The Bulls dropped to 2-3 on their current seven-game road trip. They will finish the swing against Golden State on Friday and Phoenix on Sunday.

"We had a lot of good looks, but they just didn't go down," Deng said. "Normally those are shots we make. It's a road trip, and we'd rather be at home but we have to get it done. We still have to finish this trip."

Bulls guard Ben Gordon struggled Thursday, scoring just seven points on 3-of-16 shooting.

"It's happened a couple times on this trip now where, you look at the tape, and (Gordon) just looks slower than he does other games," Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. "He comes off pick-and-rolls and big guys can stay with him and just stop him. Other times, he goes right back at the big guys and has a burst of speed.

"Defensively, he was a step slow again. He's become a much better defender, so when you see him a little bit slowed on that end we become concerned, and he had trouble putting it in."

Gordon disagreed.

"I don't feel like I'm playing at a slow pace," Gordon said. "I'm just not putting that ball in the basket."

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