posted on Mar, 20 2004 @ 11:36 AM
Mike Bibby showed the Indiana Pacers that the West is still the best. Bibby hit a jumper from just inside the 3-point arc with 1.2 seconds left to
lift the Sacramento Kings to a 94-92 victory over Indiana on Friday night in a matchup of NBA conference leaders.
Jermaine O'Neal hit two free throws to tie it at 92 with 24.7 seconds left. Chris Webber committed his sixth foul on the play, but Bibby made sure the
Kings didn't endure their first three-game losing streak in more than a year.
Bibby dribbled the length of the floor, shook Jamaal Tinsley and came off a screen to knock down the game winner.
Bibby scored 25 points and Chris Webber added 24 points and 16 rebounds for the Kings (50-19), who overcame a 17-point first-half deficit to move
within one game of the Pacers (50-18) in the race for league's best record and homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.
O'Neal had 23 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers, who were playing without second-leading scorer Ron Artest.
Artest was suspended for one game without pay by the NBA on Friday for elbowing Portland's Derek Anderson.
Artest hit Anderson in the face during Indiana's 80-71 victory Wednesday night. No foul was called on the play.
"Certainly his absence isn't the reason we lost," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "It was really a matter of keeping a certain level of
aggression, which we just did not do."
Still, the Pacers sorely missed Artest's perimeter defense and scoring against the Kings. After a sparkling first half, the Pacers were just 10-for-39
in the second half and couldn't come up with defensive stops down the stretch.
"Obviously it's a huge difference," Kings coach Rick Adelman said about Artest's absence. "He guards Peja (Stojakovic), he gives them their second
scorer. It was a break for us."
Austin Croshere's two free throws gave Indiana a 41-24 two minutes into the second quarter, but the Pacers shot 21 percent in the third quarter to let
Sacramento back in the game.
"When you get off to great starts, you can't have a letup and tonight we did and it cost us the game," Carlisle said.
Stojakovic, who had 17 points and six rebounds, hit a jumper with 11:17 to play that gave the Kings their first lead, 73-72.
That set up a thrilling final period that featured seven ties and five lead changes.
Doug Christie hit a 3-pointer with 47.7 seconds left to give Sacramento a 90-88 lead.
O'Neal came right back with a spinning drive in the lane to tie the game and Webber and O'Neal traded free throws to knot the score at 92 with 24.7 to
play before Bibby's big shot.
"In that situation, he's one of the best shot makers we have in our game," Carlisle said of Bibby. "Unfortunately, 24 uninspired minutes led to
Indiana dominated the first half, beating the Kings down the floor and beating them up in the paint. The Pacers outscored Sacramento 14-2 in fast
break points and 28-12 in the paint in the half.
O'Neal started the first quarter with six points in the first four minutes to help the Pacers take a 14-4 lead.
Jonathan Bender closed the quarter with 11 points in the final three minutes and the Pacers were off and running.
They shot 54 percent in the first half to take a 58-47 lead, but the Kings methodically began chipping away in the third quarter.
Sacramento outscored Indiana 24-14 in the third and then came up with all the big plays to bounce back from two ugly losses to New Jersey and
"We've done that all year -- lose big leads," said Jeff Foster, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds. "We should be able to win and enjoy these games,
but we're not."
Bender finished with 15 points, but missed most of the second half with a right shoulder injury. His status for Saturday's game at Memphis was not