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SERIES REPORT

View From The Other Side

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

May 05, 2000|MARK KREIDLER | SACRAMENTO BEE

You could almost hear the sound of people connecting the dots Wednesday. The Sacramento Kings, against just about any odds you could garner at your neighborhood cigar bar, have pushed the Lakers to a fifth and deciding game in their first-round Western Conference playoff; and the first audible analytical breath--after the collective "aaahhh" from the local populace, of course--inevitably involved the Utah Jazz.

And why? Because Sacramento, after all, went all the way to a fifth game against the Jazz in the same first round last season.

It was a great series. It could have ended in four games, except John Stockton, the little worm, drained a jump shot for the Jazz at the end of Game 4 to send the series back to Salt Lake City. Even then, it still could have gone the Kings' way, except Vlade Divac missed a clean shot in the lane that would have won Game 5 in regulation.

As it was, Sacramento walked away--after losing in overtime--hailed as the team of a new generation. Looking back, it was unquestionably the landmark series in the franchise's local history.

And this just in: It doesn't mean squat Friday.

This is such a different series, in such a different time, that it's almost impossible to believe less than a calendar year separates the two. The Lakers resemble the Jazz of last season like a veggie burger resembles a Ford Escort--and these Kings, for that matter, are too reconstituted in terms of playing time and bench rotations to be really compared to last year's model.

About the only thing the two playoff experiences have in common is that they have wound up in a fifth game. And the reigning king of Kings, Chris Webber, correctly perceives that as worth noting strictly with suspicion.

"We have to be careful," Webber said in the giddy aftermath of Tuesday night's pummeling of the Lakers at Arco Arena. "I don't think we can just say, 'Hey, we played well against Utah when we played the fifth game last year.' "

"That was last year. Too much has changed."

And for those keeping score, the Kings lost that game. In the end, they played just well enough to lose. Jason Williams, after holding his own against Stockton for four games, got schooled by the veteran in Game 5. Webber, hounded by Karl Malone throughout the series, never got his offense going.

Coach Rick Adelman found himself calling Divac's number on possession after possession--including the attempt at the buzzer.

A year later, the whole scenario is hard to fathom. Webber has been so completely involved in the offense that Divac's points now seem to come almost as an afterthought. In Game 4 on Tuesday, Webber repeatedly found himself asking for the play to go through him, even when he wasn't the shooter--sometimes especially so.

That's new, and it marks another substantial difference from last year's playoff entry.

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