Warriors 97, Kings 91
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—After blowing their final game of the regular season, the Sacramento Kings were as low as they’ve ever been.
A few moments later and 600 miles up the West Coast, Kobe Bryant sent the Kings even lower.
Sacramento completed its collapse and blew the Pacific Division title when Jason Richardson scored 28 points in the Golden State Warriors’ 97-91 season-ending victory over the Kings on Wednesday night.
Peja Stojakovic scored 27 points for the Kings, who lost for the eighth time in 12 games, falling all the way from the top spot in the league to the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
After beating the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, Sacramento needed just one win to clinch its third straight division title, but the Kings lost to Denver and Golden State.
The Lakers then took the Pacific title by beating Portland 105-104 in double overtime on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Bryant, who didn’t seem to be trying when the Lakers lost to the Kings three days earlier.
Sacramento (55-27) now gets a first-round meeting with the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Kings in last season’s playoffs.
“I’m just totally shocked,” coach Rick Adelman said in the Kings’ somber locker room. “I had no idea why we weren’t ready to play. … We’ve got three days to find our offense. When you’re paying no attention to detail and you’ve got no focus, that’s what’s going to happen.”
Golden State had a strong finish to its 10th straight season out of the playoffs, winning 12 of its final 17 games. The Warriors used just seven of their nine players in uniform for what probably was embattled coach Eric Musselman’s final game.
“Last year we bowed down at the end and didn’t want to play,” Richardson said. “It’s good beating the best teams in the NBA and being the spoiler. It was fun.”
Despite the high stakes, the Kings had exactly the same confusion and weaknesses they’ve shown throughout the last two months since Chris Webber returned from knee surgery. Shooting poorly and getting outhustled by the Warriors, Sacramento fell behind by 15 points midway through the third quarter.
“I just don’t want to say anything that everybody will jump on and make me the villain again,” said Webber, who had 14 points on 7-of-19 shooting. “But sometimes you just have to be tougher than your opponent.”
But after Bibby made a steal and a layup to cut Golden State’s lead to 93-91 with 49 seconds left, Foyle made a hook shot in the lane and Webber missed a 3-pointer. Pietrus added two free throws, and the Warriors celebrated as the kings trudged to the locker room in disbelief.
Bibby scored 22 points despite his grandmother’s death earlier in the day. Miller was ineffective, scoring just two points in 28 minutes.
“I don’t understand,” Adelman said. “It’s a long season, all that stuff, but we had something to play for. I guess the second or fourth seed doesn’t matter to us. … We had the day off (Tuesday). I don’t know if they all ran a marathon or something, but we played with no energy. Whatever we got, we got what we deserved.”
The Kings have struggled ever since they sat atop the league at the All-Star break. When Webber returned and Bobby Jackson went out of the lineup with an injury, they lost the chemistry that has characterized the best five-year stretch in franchise history.
Before the game, Musselman sounded resigned to his departure after two impressive seasons—at least by Golden State’s miserable standards. Musselman has clashed with team management over playing time and strategy.
“It’s really no use talking about that,” Musselman said of his future. “It’s really not my decision right now. I love to coach basketball. … I’llenjoy watching this one (on tape) tonight.”
Jackson sat out for the 28th time in the last 29 games with a strained muscle in his abdomen. The Kings hope their top reserve will return for the postseason … The Warriors also had their eighth sellout of the season to establish the franchise’s single-season record for home attendance. … Stojakovic finished second in the NBA scoring race behind Orlando’s Tracy McGrady. … Both teams wore vintage uniforms. The Warriors improved to 6-2 intheir yellow “The City” togs this season.