The heat was on. Not the Miami Heat, mind you, but the heat was on the Kings.
Down 23 in the first half, it didn't take long for nearly everyone in the building to wonder aloud if this team was waving the white flag on the season before they pulled it out. Yes, it was that bad.
As in so bad that nobody bothered to defend the three-point line bad (Miami hit 9 of 15 before halftime). So bad that Dwyane Wade actually looked like Dwyane Wade again (18 of his 26 points in the first half). So bad that the Kings starters not named Ron Artest scored a combined 23 points before the break.
But the subplot here is this: what impact did the day off on Saturday have? The Kings were scheduled to practice, but word is there was grumbling from the players because typically teams won't practice on the first day home from such a long trip (five games and nine days). Alas, practice was cancelled, which seems wholly reasonable.
And because of the sluggish start and the strong finish, the joke from Kings coach Reggie Theus afterward was that they certainly wouldn't get a day off in that situation next time if they had blown the game. There was nothing funny about this situation before the second half.
"I'd like to say I did a great job at halftime, but they came out and got after it defensively," Theus said. "We talked about what we did wrong, and (I) basically just challenged them and said, 'Do you guys really want to go out like this?'' We did talk about not having another day off. We did talk about that."
Artest seemed intent on criticizing Theus any way he could see fit afterward.
And while much of the material is in the game story, there was quite a bit more. Asked about what happened in the first half, Artest blamed it largely on his coach.
"Beno (Udrih) came out (of the game) with (one) minute to go in the first quarter, and then he sat out for like seven more minutes after that," Artest said. "So we knew when he got back in the game that we'd have a chance to win, (but) we were just wondering when was coach going to make that decision to put him back in the game? Sometimes we had a bad lineup out there too today. We're out there with Q (Quincy Douby), Beno, and Kev (Martin) - some of our worst defenders out there playing against some of the best players in the league, and that don't work.
"We got down 20 (points), and you wonder why we're down 20. But we got back in it as a team. The players decided to play. We're trying to make the playoffs. And once we get the coaches believing that we can make the playoffs, we'll be fine."
This wasn't the first time Artest had talked about who believes in the playoff push and who doesn't. In Atlanta on Wednesday, he said there were some people on his unofficial list of believers, but he didn't want to reveal who because that, of course, would expose the non-believers. A few days later, he obviously didn't mind disclosing at least some of that top secret information. - Sam Amick