For a night anyway, ignore the fact that Wednesday's game featured two fo the league's bottom feeders. The triple-overtime treat between the Kings and Warriors game deserved a second look ... and perhaps a third .... even though it featured two of the league's bottom feeders. The physical effort alone is noteworthy, specifically, because the Kings had embarrassed themselves 24 hours earlier against the Orlando Magic, and because the Warriors were without the injured Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Marco Belinelli and Brandan Wright. Also, Corey Maggette, C.J. Watson and Andris Biedrins fouled out well before the outcome was decided in the third OT.
Other musings, observations:
* The playing time was crazy. Jamal Crawford (60), John Salmons (56), Beno Udrih (56), Kevn Martin (55) and Brad Miller (51) definitely earned Thursday day off.
* What got into Brad? This is probably just a coincidence, but in the locker room before the game, former NBA coach Paul Silas visited with with Kings coach Kenny Natt, whom he hired as an assistant in Cleveland, and Miller, whom he coached during the center's second season in the league in Charlotte. Silas, a former star at nearby McClymonds High, was in Oakland to visit his son, Warriors assistant Stephen Silas, and his longtime friend and former Boston Celtics teammate Don Nelson. The scene was actually pretty funny.
While waiting for the Kings bus to arrive, the burly Silas stood in the back tunnel area, leaning on a stationary bicycle. When the Kings started walking into the buiilding, the understandably preoccupied Natt walked toward the locker room, head down, but then did a double-take when he saw Silas. I left so the two could chat. In the locker room a while later, Silas and Miller plopped down on two chairs in the middle of the room, sat laughing and reminiscing for about 20 minutes. When I approached, Silas affectionately described the former Hornet as a muscular rebounder who ran the floor relentlessly and consistently attacked the basket. The jumpers and pretty passes came later in his career. Miller joked that he ran the floor and rebounded because, on that particular Hornets team, that was the only way he ever touched the ball. Ok. So what happened next? Miller goes out and contributes a muscular 30 points, 22 rebounds and two steals in what some (Pete Carril among them) suggest was a career-best performance. I asked Brad if he was showing off for his old coach. He just laughed. In all seriousness, I can think of several games that rival last night's performance, including his triple-double outings in 2003-2004. People might forget, but Miller routinely flirted with triple-doubles and was named to the All-Star that season.
* Just thinking: I love when Miller plays with passion, but can't he cool it with the technicals? That was in the scouting report on him in 2003-2004, too
* The words "gutsy" and "Beno" aren't often uttered in the same conversation, but the maligned point guard took the ball hard to the basket, and frequently became acquainted with the floor, a la Kevin Johnson. Beno might want to review tapes of Sacramento's mayor during his days with the Phoenix Suns, as a matter of fact. KJ was superb at penetrating - and landing without getting hurt - but he was equally adept at getting into the lane and finding open teammates in the corners, on the wings, or trailing on the break. Yes, yes, yes. More passing, please.
* I often have asked myself why Golden State's crowds remain so energetic, given the fact the club is decimated by injury, free agent defections and soon will be joining the Kings in the NBA Lottery. After being in Arco Arena and Oracle Arena on consecutive nights, and noting the contrasting energy and enthusiasm levels, I have come to the following conclusion: the Warriors might be a flawed club, but at least on their homecourt, they play fast, move the ball, and have three-point shooters who can hit those momentum-changing three's that excite a crowd. In other words, it's one thing to be a bad team that plays at a slow, methodical pace and doesn't move the ball (see the Kings on most nights), and another to be a bad team that is still fun to watch. (see Warriors at Oracle). Forced to play at the Warriors' clip, the Kings are much more enjoyable to watch. Why can't they do this more often? That would give fans something to cheer about.
* Not to harp on the fact that it's so much easier to score before the defense is set (and seems to be a no-brainer to me, especially for teams that are only modestly-talented), but Martin's three-pointer that forced the final overtime was launched before the Warriors' transition defense had time to get set. Instead of slowly bringing the ball upcourt, per usual, Martin moved quickly, saw the opening, then took advantage of the opportunity. Natt continues stressing this facet of play, so maybe something is starting to sink in.
* Salmons' game-winner was the play of the night, of course, but this was his best all-around game in a long time: 25 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and no turnovers. Additionally, he rarely dominated the ball, instead, gave up the dribble and moved to an open spot, enhancing the team's spacing. His late-game defense was significant as well, as was the defensive positioning of Miller and Martin.
* Though the press seating at Oracle is at the top of the lower bowl, it was still possible to see Don Nelson furiously scrawling on the clipboard during late timeouts. While no one will ever accuse Nellie of being a defensive guru, when it comes to designing a play to win a game, he's one of the best. I kept wondering what he was going to come up with this time.
* From the Kings' perspective - and Natt's perspective - this was one of the nights when his club desperately needed a victory. Accordingly, Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson were limited to 11 and 22 minutes, respectively. Hawes struggled defensively and was beaten for several rebounds. Thompson, though, was effective and efficient, with 12 points (5 of 8), nine boards and his usual assortment of taps and hustle plays.
Jerry Reynolds remembers ...
As he walked toward the locker room afterward, Kings do-everything executive and current television analyst Jerry Reynolds reminded me of the Kings' most recent triple-double outing in late February, 2001. We shared a laugh about that one - a wildly entertaining game against the Raptors in Toronto, Peja Stojakovic appeared to hit the game-winner, and in a rare display of bravado, strutted and celebrated as he walked toward the bench. Oooops. One of the Raptors - was it Vince Carter? - responded and tied the second OT. Peja had to win the game all over again, which he did, with another jumper from the side to finish the third OT. That was also one of those afternoons when the Vlade Divac-Chris Webber-Doug Christie-Mike Bibby group amassed assists by the dozens.
So there they are
Several Kings fans were among those who stayed at Oracle until the finish, and they could be heard cheering from all over the building. One fan who paid $500 for his seat just behind the scorer's table - a cheaper ticket than his seats at Arco, he says - approached while JR and I were talking. Jimmy Pierson, a paramedic who attended Christian Brothers High and Sac City, says he bought the ticket on-line earlier in the week. "This is my favorite game of the season," said Pierson, who was wearing a Kings jacket. "I love being from Sac and coming to Golden State, cheering for the Kings against the Warriors fans. I wish we played them more often."