I really thought that fourth quarter was going to end up some sick joke.
Ron Artest with the ball in his hands at the top of the key, something around 40 seconds left, shot clock winding down, Kings down by 2. After a 'what-the-hell?' comeback that included Mike Bibby hitting shots, Shareef Abdur-Rahim yanking down tough rebounds in traffic, Artest shutting down Boozer, Derek Fisher and Deron Williams throwing the ball around like a hot potato, Mehmet Okur going cold, and Eric Musselman making good lineup decisions with Corliss Williamson getting prominent endgame play, the night came down to one decision.
Artest dribbled at the top of the key, while the scorching Bibby called for the ball back at midcourt. Bibby stood there, calling for the ball, holding his arms out, fully expecting the pass to come his way. Surely, Artest knew Bibby was the Kings' best offensive weapon this night, hitting jumpers and layups in traffic alike. Surely, Artest - defended by the insanely talented Andrei Kirilenko - would defer to the frisky point guard who was setting the table with some the better dishes we've seen all season.
Surely, you don't know Ron Artest.
When Artest drove and kicked it to the left corner, I expected Kevin Martin to be standing there. He wasn't. To my, Mike Bibby's, and I'm sure thousands of Kings fans in their living rooms' dismay, it was Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the corner. Shareef, he of 0-4 three-point shooting this season. Shareef, he of the 17-foot maximum range. Shareef, he of the line drive, flat as Coke in the summer sun shooting stroke. Shareef, he of the glorious one-armed offensive rebounds, yet standing nowhere near the basket.
Bibby looked displeased. Grant Napear sounded like he was being tasered by police, he was so displeased with the fact Bibby didn't have the ball in his hands. I was displeased, because most Artest possessions that involve things like "dribbling" and "making decisions" don't end up well.
Shareef covered up that little lockerroom revolution by hitting a ballsy corner shot for the win. Can you imagine how incensed Napear would've become had the shot not gone in and Utah grabbed the uncontested rebound? Can you even imagine both Artest and Bibby walking out of the visitor's lockerroom alive? And Musselman, he would've murdered Ron-Ron or been murdered. And me, I'd be avoiding the computer so I wouldn't have to write about another Sactown Debacle.
So thank you, Reef. Beautiful winning shot. Knew you could do it. Never had any doubt about it. We have faith in you. Keep it up.