Monday, May 19, 2003

Christie's 0-for-6 dooms Kings

By Jaime Aron
The Associated Press

DALLAS - When the Sacramento Kings lost Chris Webber two games into their second-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, Doug Christie took over the do-it-all role. Until Game 7.

Christie went 0-for-6, scoring just four points. He was on the bench during the one big spurt the Kings had as their bid to reach the Western Conference finals for the second straight season ended Saturday night with a 112-99 loss to the Mavericks.

"We tried our best. We just couldn't get it done," Christie said. "For the most part, the guys aren't frustrated or down. We're disappointed we weren't able to keep it going, but understanding that when you lose your best player, it's tough."

It was certainly tough on that best player.

Webber sat watching from the bench, agonizing over every play he could've made. And there were a lot of them early on, when Sacramento struggled with its shots and sorely needed to throw it to him underneath for easy baskets.

"You look at it as a lost opportunity," he said. "These Mavs are a good team, but we still feel we had a chance to compete. We're not going anywhere. We'll be back next year and we'll be stronger."

Although Mike Bibby had his best game of the series with 25 points, it wasn't enough to overcome subpar outings by Christie and super-sub Bobby Jackson. He went 4-for-13 - 1-for-7 on 3-pointers - and had 12 points, his second-lowest of the series.

Vlade Divac scored 11 points, but shot 3-of-12. Hedo Turkoglu, who started in Webber's place, had just six points and Keon Clark, who hit the winning shot in two regular-season games in Dallas, failed to score in six minutes.

Christie's struggles hurt the most because of how much Sacramento was relying on him since Webber went out with a knee injury late in Game 2.

Usually a defensive stopper, Christie averaged 18 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists in Games 3-6. He had at least 20 points in the two previous games.

Four first-quarter misses apparently sapped his confidence this time. His only shots afterward were a 5-footer in the second quarter, then an airball on a wide-open 3-pointer in the third.

Christie went out with 2:07 left in the third and Sacramento down seven. He didn't return until there was 5:54 left in the game and the Mavs ahead by 16. He never took another shot.

"I didn't get that many looks, and when I did, they were real rushed," said Christie, who had seven rebounds and three assists in 33 minutes. "We have an offense that allows for moving the ball around, but we were getting stuck on one side a lot of the time and trying to make things happen instead of taking what they gave us. We've got to give them credit. They had a good game plan."

Bad aim was contagious for Sacramento. While the Kings made 41.9 percent of their shots, they started 3-of-15 and were 8-for-34, a wretched 23.5 percent, midway through the second quarter.

Then came their one flicker of hope. A streak of seven straight field goals spurred a 15-0 run that took Sacramento from 12 down to three up.

But it didn't last. The Mavs led by five at halftime and the Kings wouldn't get closer than 63-60. A run of six straight shots in the fourth period was only enough to make it 87-82. That rally also came without Christie.

"We'd make a couple of stops, hit some big shots, and every time we did that, they'd make big shots and put us away," Divac said.

The loss ruined what the Kings hoped would be the best postseason run of their Sacramento era, especially with the three-time defending champion Lakers out of the way. Instead, they're headed home haunted by plenty of what-ifs.

What if Webber didn't get hurt? Would they have beaten Dallas in five games, like last year's second round?

What if they'd won one more game in the regular season and had home-court advantage? It certainly helped the Mavericks, as a franchise-record 20,595 fans had the court vibrating with every fourth-quarter jumper.

What if Bibby had been better the first six games?

Still, Sacramento knows it has a bright future, especially with Webber healthy once again. He said he's planning surgery within the week and vows to rehabilitate "no matter how long it takes."

"I want to make sure I do it right," he said.

But the Kings also know they missed a great chance this postseason, and it'll take 12 months to get this close to another title.

"You always can find excuses," Divac said. "But this is it. We came up short. We can't go into injuries and everything else. It's just bad luck."

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