SAN ANTONIO (AP)—If this was a preview of a first-round matchup in the NBA playoffs, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs will see a demanding opponent in the Sacramento Kings. And they’ll see plenty of Mike Bibby.
Bibby played in all but 2:36 of the game, and he scored 31 points, had eight assists and seven rebounds to lead the Kings to a 97-87 victory Wednesday night.
The Kings (39-37) currently are the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Spurs (58-17) have the top seed.
The Kings bounced back from their worst defeat of the season, a 26-point loss at Dallas on Tuesday.
“If we play like we did tonight, I see us going far in the playoffs,” Bibby said. “If we play like last night (against Dallas), no way.”
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Spurs.
Tony Parker led San Antonio with 16 points.
“I thought Sacramento played great tonight,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Bibby was great. We just didn’t play our normal game, and it cost us.”
It didn’t take long for the Kings to build a double-digit lead.
Sacramento took a 26-22 lead after the first quarter by shooting 50 percent from the floor. Ron Artest didn’t miss any of this three tries, including a 3-pointer 1:11 into the game.
Artest hit another 3-pointer early in the second quarter—his fourth basket in four tries overall—to give the Kings an 11-point lead.
Sacramento led by 13 points at halftime and built a 19-point lead with 6:14 remaining. The Spurs failed to cut the lead to less than double digits the rest of the way.
Artest scored 15 points. Bonzi Wells added 19 for Sacramento.
“We played solid all the way through,” Kings coach Rick Adelman said. “We beat the best team in the West at their place. If we keep playing at this level we are going to put ourselves in great position for the playoffs.”
Sacramento has a two-game lead over New Orleans for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans kept pace with the Kings on Wednesday, defeating Golden State in overtime.
But time is running out. Sacramento has six games remaining and has won four of its last five.
San Antonio has a two-game lead over Southwest Division-rival Dallas for the best record in the West. The Spurs and Mavericks meet for the final time in the regular season on Friday in San Antonio.
The Kings handed the Spurs their fifth loss at home this season, and the two games they lost to San Antonio this season were by a total of four points.
If the current seeds hold, the Spurs will see a far different opponent than they did earlier in the season when they won the two close games against the Kings. Before Wednesday, the Spurs and Kings last played on Dec. 17. Sacramento acquired Artest in the trade with Indiana on Jan. 25.
“They are more physical,” Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. “We are going to use (this game) to know them better. The last time that we played was a long time ago. So it’s going to be good to know them if we really play them.”
The Spurs shot 41 percent from the floor compared to 48 percent for the Kings.
The Kings didn’t dip very far into their bench. But they were efficient when they went there.
Abdur-Rahim finished with 16 points in 24 minutes; Martin added nine.
The Kings shot 5-of-24 from 3-point range at Dallas, but shot 9-for-18 from the 3-point line against San Antonio.
The Kings play Friday at the Los Angeles Clippers, but follow with four of their remaining five games at home. … The Kings held their opponents to less than 100 points in 13 games before the 127 points scored by Dallas on Tuesday. … Four technical fouls were called during the first half, including consecutive calls on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan and another 48 seconds later against Artest. … The Spurs trailed by double digits for the second consecutive home game. San Antonio fell behind by 10 against Washington in the third quarter on Saturday, but still won 106-99.