for this game

Shorthanded Kings hand Hornets surprising loss

Apr 13, 2008 - 6:12 AM By Tom Galland PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SACRAMENTO, California (Ticker) -- The Sacramento Kings are having an impact on the playoffs despite a losing record and a myriad of injuries. Just ask the New Orleans Hornets.

Ron Artest scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half and the Kings held off a furious late rally to defeat the Hornets, 94-91, at Arco Arena on Saturday.

John Salmons scored 18 points for Sacramento, which played without leading scorer Kevin Martin (knee) and starting center Brad Miller (leg).

"You've got to play the games," Kings coach Reggie Theus said. "We're going to be here working anyway, so let's have some fun and muck (the playoffs) up, make the West take notice that this team is not sitting back. We are playing our young guys, we are trying to develop, but everybody that's playing is playing at a very high level."

"I think we played hard and I think we've shown a lot of courage and a lot of character," said the versatile Salmons, who replaced Martin in the starting lineup Saturday after playing for Artest the night before. "That's what this team was built on all year."

David West collected 30 points and 15 rebounds for the Hornets (55-25), who fell into a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers (55-25) - just one-half game ahead of the San Antonio Spurs (54-25) - for the top spot in the West.

The Lakers and Spurs face off on Sunday afternoon, then each will also meet the increasingly pesky Kings.

"We got exactly what we deserved, and that's a loss," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "You can brow beat (the team) only so many times to try to get them to understand how important certain games are. I can't play the game for them.

"I know what type of intensity you have to bring, that fear of losing you have to go into the game with. From a team standpoint, I didn't see that tonight."

Trailing by five entering the fourth, the Kings used consecutive 3-pointers from Artest to retake the lead. Quincy Douby followed with a floater in the lane and Francisco Garcia hit a jumper from the wing to make it 80-75.

The Hornets helped by going ice cold, managing just two points in the first six minutes of the period.

After New Orleans pulled within one, Beno Udrih converted two from the line, and Artest hit another from the arc to make it 88-81 with under three minutes in the game.

Artest added what appeared to be the last nail in the coffin with his fourth 3-pointer with 51 seconds left, putting Sacramento up 91-85.

After a Hornets' turnover, Udrih was fouled and converted 1-of-2 free throws to make it 92-85 with 29 seconds left.

Hornets guard Morris Peterson was inexplicably fouled attempting a 3-pointer, and made all three from the line to close it to 92-88 with 23 seconds on the clock.

New Orleans then forced a five-second call on Sacramento's inbound attempt, and Peja Stojakovic buried a long 3-pointer to make it 92-91 with 12 seconds to go.

Salmons made two free throws and Stojakovic's shot from the arc with two seconds left just missed, inciting gasps of relief from the Arco crowd.

"It looked kind of good, but unfortunately it didn't go in," said Stojakovic, who scored 18 but missed nine of 11 3-point attempts. "(It's a) tough loss for us."

New Orleans converted just 3-of-18 from the arc as a team and only 6-of-24 shots from the floor in the critical fourth quarter.

"We played hard even though our season is over, and New Orleans had a great season and are going to continue," said Artest, who returned after missing two games with a left thumb sprain. "It was important that we get this win. We made a couple of bonehead plays at the end of the game, but we (were) good for the most part."

Sacramento hit 61 percent from the floor in the first half and held a 52-49 advantage at the break.

Chris Paul put the Hornets on top with a driving scoop shot and free throw for a three-point play. West added two jumpers and Peterson converted from the arc for a 10-0 run which put New Orleans up 64-56 midway through the third quarter.

"At the end of the third quarter, it looked like we had the game in our control," Stojakovic said. "There was still 14 or 15 minutes to play, but we weren't able to finish the game.

"I don't know what to say, we just played a bad game - not consistent on both ends of the floor. We have two games left, so we'll see what happens."

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