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Artest, Kings pull out rare road win at Trail Blazers

Feb 20, 2008 - 7:24 AM PORTLAND, Oregon (Ticker) -- Ron Artest and the Sacramento Kings had a great start to life without Mike Bibby.

Artest scored 12 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as the Kings held off a rally from the Portland Trail Blazers for a 105-94 victory on Tuesday.

It was Sacramento's first game since dealing longtime guard Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday for Anthony Johnson, Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, Lorenzen Wright and a second-round pick in 2008.

"He (Bibby) did so much for our team and the city of Sacramento while he was here," Kings guard Kevin Martin said. "We just have to go on. We hear it (trade talk) all the time. We just gotta play with those that are with us and pray for those who aren't. After the trade, we feel like we got our team."

A former All-Star, Bibby's absence was not missed as the Kings shook off the loss of an early nine-point lead in the fourth en route to collecting just their eighth win in 26 road games this season.

"This was a really nice win for us," Sacramento coach Reggie Theus said. "This is a very good basketball team ... it's a playoff basketball team. With the excuses we have with the travel and the new players and getting this win was a big thing."

"I think we deserved this tonight," Artest said. "We played for 48 minutes tonight. We're not going to be a rollover team. We're making a push. We're not out (of the playoffs) until they say we're out, so we are going to keep pushing forward."

The other tradable piece for Kings, Artest may also be on the move as the deadline rolls around on Thursday.

Going on a 17-4 run to take control in the third, Sacramento had a 74-65 advantage one minute into the final quarter behind a 3-pointer by Francisco Garcia, who finished with 23 points off the bench.

"Francisco was fresh," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "He came in and gave us a lift. When you got 'Cisco on one side and Martin on the other side hitting shots, it makes a challenge for the other team."

Closing out the first half of the season with four straight road losses, the Trail Blazers rallied and pulled ahead, 76-74, after Travis Outlaw's three-point play capped an 11-0 run.

Although Artest responded with a 3-pointer, Portland grabbed an 81-79 lead on a basket from the arc from Martell Webster with 7:09 remaining.

The contest was tied three times until Brad Miller's three-point play with 5:05 left gave the Kings a lead they never relinquish.

"We weathered an 11-0 run and called a timeout, guys didn't hang their heads and they dug down and made big plays down the stretch," Theus said.

Artest, who finished 10-of-19 from the field, hit a running jumper for a 91-88 edge with 4:26 to play and sandwiched baskets around a jumper from Outlaw to make it 98-92 with 1:50 remaining.

Artest later added his third steal on a potential drive by Brandon Roy with 1:24 left, highlighting a stellar defensive effort where he held the All-Star to just two points in the second half.

"We have a balance guy and that's Ron," Theus said. "Tonight he was making great decisions and was very much a leader on the floor. He guarded the toughest guy on the floor and he had the ball on offense. The guy affects the game on both ends of the floor."

Martin scored 21 points and Miller added 15 and eight rebounds for Sacramento, which finished 10-of-19 on 3-pointers.

Outlaw had 23 points and Webster chipped in 18 for the Trail Blazers, who dropped just their third home game against a Western Conference team.

"We were making good shots and the effort was there, we just let them get too many offensive rebounds down the stretch," Webster said. "Their second and third opportunities were easy layups under the rim. It's hard. We know we can play better than that individually and as a team."

"I thought we had more life tonight we had in our last few games, but we just didn't execute," Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought Ron Artest did a really good job for them in the post, quarterbacking the team from that position."

Fresh off his first All-Star appearance, Roy ended with 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting.

"Brandon was tired and sick before the game," McMillan said. "He had a fever but he said he felt he could go. He did his best but he just didn't have the energy he usually does."

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