SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento Kings may have given up hope, but they haven't given up attitude.
On Saturday, they claimed that while the Lakers may have won the first three games of this series, it was only because the Kings allowed them to win.
"The only reason they're beating us is that we're not making shots," Jason Williams said. "We're just not playing our best basketball."
Added Scot Pollard: "I still believe we're a better team than they are."
Vlade Divac put this feeling into numbers.
"I'd say it's 90% that we're missing shots, and 10% their defense," he said.
Here are some other numbers the Kings should perhaps consider:
Williams, their point guard, has as many turnovers (10) as field goals and free throws combined.
Doug Christie, their defensive stopper, has allowed Kobe Bryant to average 30.7 points with a series-leading 14 assists.
Peja Stojakovic, their hottest scorer, has been so stifled by Rick Fox that he has made only six more field goals (17) than Derek Fisher.
Chris Webber, their marquee player, has 10 turnovers and seven assists.
Divac, their big man, is being outrebounded by Shaquille O'Neal, 59-21.
On a television in the Kings' practice facility, in the other Western Conference semifinals, the Dallas Mavericks' Shawn Bradley was being called for three seconds late in the game.
On the practice court, Coach Rick Adelman was talking about how many times O'Neal has been called for the same violation in this series.
"Three games, no three-second calls," he said. "And not one illegal defense."
Adelman wasn't complaining, simply answering a question about whether championship teams sometime get championships breaks.
"I do think the Lakers get the calls," he said. "But maybe they earn the calls."
Unlike Portland's Mike Dunleavy, who complained personally about O'Neal, Adelman doesn't blame the non-calls on the center.
"Shaq takes advantage of his height and his body and he keeps doing it and doing it," Adelman said. "If they'll keep letting him do it, more power to him."
As the playoffs creep toward their most pressurized point, experience becomes a bigger factor. While few expected the Kings to fold as they have folded in this series, perhaps few realize the disparity in the two teams' championship rings.
No King has a championship ring. Ten of the 12 Lakers have rings, with Greg Foster and Mark Madsen being the exceptions.
While the Kings have competed well in the first round of playoff series, they obviously have been unprepared for the intensity of their first second-round experience. 'This is new for us," Stojakovic admitted. "Me, I'm still learning."