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A Second-Half Disappearing Act

June 03, 2002|ELLIOTT TEAFORD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — At the end, he was all but invisible, a victim (perhaps) of point guard Mike Bibby's success and (certainly) of center Vlade Divac's foul trouble. The Sacramento Kings sure could have used more from power forward Chris Webber when it counted Sunday.

They didn't get it.

Webber scored 20 points, took eight rebounds and had 11 assists in what otherwise might have been hailed as a fine game. Trouble was, Webber went poof! in the second half. And the Kings did, too, falling to the Lakers, 112-106, in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals at raucous Arco Arena.

In the second half plus overtime, Webber scored six points on three-of-10 shooting, took four rebounds and, remarkably enough, turned into a playmaker with seven assists. He took one shot in the third quarter, four in the fourth and five in overtime.

When it was over, Webber had the look of a beaten man, wondering where it all went wrong. The trouble began when center Vlade Divac went to the bench with his fourth foul with 5:29 remaining in the third quarter. The Kings had a 65-58 lead at that point, but it would not last.

Backup Scot Pollard couldn't handle Laker center Shaquille O'Neal in the low post after Divac went out. When Divac returned, he picked up his fifth and sixth fouls and was gone. Webber was asked to shadow O'Neal.

"I think our big guys got in foul trouble and I started checking O'Neal," Webber said, trying to explain his sudden lack of shooting after halftime. "I'm not going to post him up. I'm going to try to move my feet and set up my other guys. It was working. It just didn't work enough."

Soon enough, Bibby became the Kings' only option with the ball. Bibby and Webber ran pick and roll after pick and roll, with Webber freeing Bibby repeatedly for open shots. Against increasing pressure from the Lakers, he kept hitting, scoring 14 of the Kings' final 18 points.

Webber was a non-factor, although he did make a jumper for the first points of overtime. Webber missed his next four, including a three-point attempt that could have brought the Kings within, 110-109, in the closing seconds.

"We're not concerned about who is taking shots," Sacramento Coach Rick Adelman said when asked about Webber's inactivity late. "That's for somebody else to discuss. Chris Webber was the reason we were here."

Webber wasn't the only reason the Kings are on vacation today while the Lakers prepare to meet the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals, which begin Wednesday at Staples Center. He was only the most noticeable reason. Plus, his second-half disappearance served to underscore the Kings' lack of experience in crunch time.

Of the Kings, only reserve forward Chucky Brown has won a championship ring, earned with the Houston Rockets in 1995-96. Webber asked Brown to show off his ring to the Kings before the playoffs began, as a way to displaying what it was that they were after in this postseason.

Saturday, on the eve of Game 7, Webber spoke of the pressure he might face. Sunday, he was almost tearful as he spoke of what the experience meant to him.

"We'll be back here again," he said. "Positives are going to come out of this. Flowers grow from manure. Anything can grow from anything.

"I'll keep playing and stay positive. I'll be proud of my effort. I know the Kings came to play. I know the Kings deserved to win the series."

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