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View From The Other Side

What papers in the Sacramento area are saying about the series:


Seize the moment, absorb the flow, appreciate the sheer cosmic, Zen-like beauty of the night.

This, folks, is perfection, as pure and perfect a basketball evening as the Kings and their fans have experienced this season, last season, all 16 seasons.

They call this place a big barn, do they? (Can't hear you through all that noise in Arco Arena.)

They call this a small-time, small-town market, do they? (Sorry. Still can't hear you.).

So what exactly do they call the Kings now? Can't call them quitters, not after this.

Can't call them losers, not after this.

Can't call them anything but late playoff arrivals, not after this.

No, the heavily favored Lakers are looking at a highly improbable fifth and deciding game of this once one-sided series, and while the teams return to Staples Center, where the Kings were either impostors or playing possum for Games 1 and 2, Phil Jackson and his triangle offense suddenly looks more than a little out of shape.

"The energy they played with, we couldn't match," conceded the Lakers' coach, moments after the Kings had evened the series, 101-88.

The fans chanting, the drum beating, the air soaked with purpose and passion. Most-valuable-player candidate Chris Webber playing the playoff game of his life. Vlade Divac diving and shooting and clogging the lanes. Jon Barry on fire, Tony Delk on cue, Nick Anderson, Peja Stojakovic and all the other Kings men doing what they needed to do--hitting jumpers, stealing passes, grabbing rebounds and defending--actually, defending --as if they'd been doing it all their lives, or least, all season long.

The Kings, rising from the dead Sunday, doing it again Tuesday.

"I told them [players] before the game that everybody had to leave nothing on the floor," King Coach Rick Adelman said.

With one terrific fourth quarter Sunday, and four more on Tuesday, the Kings leaped to the head of the class--assuming the Lakers remain everybody's pick to succeed the San Antonio Spurs as NBA champions. And the Lakers have to remain the favorite. As Jackson noted later, all his club needs to do is win its home games and it claims the trophy.

But, darn, if the Kings didn't mess up that three-games-and-out scenario.

With the rousing crowd on its feet 15 minutes before tipoff, chants of "Beat L.A., Beat L.A.," beating down on the court like a drum, the noise level perhaps louder than it has ever been, the Kings didn't strut for long; they stormed the place.

Every long rebound, theirs. Every loose ball, theirs. Every hustle play, theirs. By halftime, the game was theirs too.

By the end, there were smiles, more cheers, Adelman's two fists raised in victory toward the crowd.

Quite the night, indeed.

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