After two straight impressive road wins, the Sacramento Kings return to Arco Arena and look to maintain their hold one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference as they host the Houston Rockets.
Sacramento prevented the Los Angeles Clippers from clinching a playoff berth and won for the fifth time in six games with a 96-93 victory Friday. Mike Bibby scored 30 points and Ron Artest had 14 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Kings held off a rally by the Clippers to remain tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for seventh place in the West.
The Kings, who posted a 97-87 win Wednesday over the conference-leading San Antonio Spurs, used only eight players Friday and received just eight points from their reserves. Brad Miller, who now faces the tough task of trying to contain Yao Ming, had 18 points and seven rebounds in 40 minutes.
“Ron has been terrific for us,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “He plays hard and he does everything you need him to do. Tonight he stepped up huge down the stretch on the offensive and defensive end when we needed him.”
Artest missed his first five shots Friday, but finished 8-of-20 and provided the go-ahead points with a fadeaway jumper with 34 seconds to play for a 94-92 Kings lead.
“When he came in, he brought toughness to the team defensively,” Bibby said of Artest. “And it’s a mismatch on offense, too. I always joke that I’ve got four power forwards out there with me because Ron and Bonzi Wells are two big bodies.”
Houston improved to 1-3 on its six-game road trip with a 100-93 victory Friday over the Golden State Warriors. Yao had 30 points and 14 rebounds, and rookie Luther Head added 26 points—two shy of his career high—and eight rebounds as the Rockets held a 61-32 advantage on the boards.
“I didn’t do anything,” said Yao, who is averaging 27.2 points and 11.6 rebounds in his last five games. “I just did what I’m supposed to do. In the third quarter, our patience wasn’t good enough. If we don’t play with patience, we’re not leaving here with a victory.”
Rafer Alston added 16 points and hit a 3-pointer to start a late 10-2 run after the Rockets struggled in the third period and blew a 10-point halftime lead.
“We had a horrible third quarter but we got the opportunity in the fourth to get back into it,” Head said. “We played better defense and had a stronger final quarter.”