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Martin leads Kings over Blazers for third straight win

Mar 4, 2007 - 6:54 AM PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- Kevin Martin and the Sacramento Kings are starting to put it all together.

Martin had 33 points and tied a career high with six assists and Ron Artest added 23 points as the Kings took care of the ball in a 104-96 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Despite a poor shooting night from star guard Mike Bibby, who scored just 13 points on 3-of-13 shooting, Sacramento (27-32) pulled within two games of the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"Right now, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to fight, scratch and claw to get in that eighth spot if we are even going to get it," Artest said. "We are just figuring it out now and we put ourselves in a situation where to make a run at the other teams."

Struggling with inconsistency all season, the Kings are starting to make a push for the postseason on the back of Martin, who led the squad in scoring (21.1), field-goal percentage (49.4), 3-point percentage (41.0) and free-throw percentage (84.7) entering the contest.

On Saturday, he shot 11-of-19 from the field, including 2-of-8 from the arc, and 9-of-9 from the line. Artest was 10-of-16 and nailed his only 3-pointer for Sacramento, which shot 46 percent (39-of-84) and committed just nine turnovers.

"We came out aggressive, and I wanted to come out aggressive with the team," Martin said. "I had a tough one, so I wanted to get it going quickly. We wanted to attack the rim tonight and we were hitting our free throws early. We just played our game. We tried to not let Zach (Randolph) get off. The rest is we just fed off each other."

The Kings led throughout but pulled away from the Trail Blazers with a third-quarter run. Leading by six points just 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, Sacramento outscored Portland, 10-4, over the next 3 1/2 minutes to make it 67-55 with 7:50 left.

After beating the Los Angeles Lakers, 116-108, on Friday, the Kings swept both games on a short two-game road swing.

"It was a short trip but the best one of the season," Sacramento coach Eric Musselman said. "I'm really proud of the way we took care of the basketball in the second night of a back-to-back. We had high value for each possesion and we did the little things tonight. We played with great energy, which is not easy on the second night of a back-to-back."

Randolph collected 24 points and 12 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who shot 42 percent (34-of-81) from the field and 7-of-15 from the arc.

"We just couldn't bounce back tonight," Randolph said. "Every time we made a run to try and get close, they would come up with a big possession. They came down and executed. It was a tough game but we got to shake it off. We couldn't get (any) calls. It's tough. We got to learn how to play through it.

"We are a young team, and I think that has a lot to do with it, but as we get more games under us and get better it will change."

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