The Greatest Sacramento Kings Game I Ever Attended


April 28, 2006. First round of the ’06 Western Conference playoffs. Kings vs. Spurs. At the time I was a freshman in high school, and my buddy got tickets for Game 3. This Kings team was one fans were not accustomed to, as it was the only Adelman-coached playoff team void of Peja Stojakovic, and just the second without Chris Webber. However, to this day, it is still the greatest game I’ve ever attended.

“I was just trying to get to the free-throw line and just threw it up, and it went in. [Then]…chaos.” –Kevin Martin

The Kings had traded Peja to Indiana for Metta World Peace (the artist formerly known as Ron Artest) midseason. The move shook things up for Sacramento and the team rallied behind a rejuvenated Artest, with inspired play coming from Mike Bibby and Bonzi Wells. In what would be Adelman’s final coaching year, Sacramento entered the postseason as the West’s 8th seed; and were down 2-0 in the series to the then-defending champion San Antonio Spurs. After barely dropping those two in San Antonio, the Kings returned to a rowdy Arco Arena, which was the grandest home advantage in the NBA.

In that game, San Antonio rallied from a 15-point third quarter deficit behind Tim Duncan and Michael Finley. Finley was killer, scoring all 17 of his points in the second half and drilling a key 3-pointer that gave the Spurs the lead with 41 seconds remaining.

“I couldn’t believe [Martin’s shot] was going to go in. I was standing underneath the rim and just saw it bounce around and around. I’m glad it bounced our way this time.” -Mike Bibby

The Spurs were up 93-92 with possession and 27 seconds left on the game. Manu Ginobili wound down the clock before trying to drive to the basket. However, Mike Bibby stripped the ball from Ginobili and ran to the other end, finding Martin whose layup agonizingly bounced along the rim before finally going in the hoop as time ran out. K-Mart’s buzzer-beating layup over Duncan’s outstretched arms allowed the Kings to grind out a miraculous 94-93 victory, keeping Sacramento out of an undesirable 3-0 series hole.

A key to the game-winning shot was Artest’s defense, who harassed Ginobili into seven turnovers, including the very last one. Bibby scored 25 and Bonzi Wells collected 19 and a playoff career-high 14 rebounds for Sacramento. The Kings eventually and expectedly lost the series 4-2.

I always knew how rowdy Arco got, but this was my first (and only) playoff game ever attended. It was such a unique experience: even the parking lot composed of an electric atmosphere. I also remember going court-side during shoot-around watching Artest and K-Mart warm up.

While unlikely this season, I sincerely wish to be able to experience one more playoff game at Arco (I don’t call it Sleep Train), before the new downtown arena opens in 2016. Let’s make it happen!