The Kings won, in my opinion, the toughest game of the road trip Wednesday.
Everyone in the Sactown media whipped themselves into a frenzy about how important a win it was, like it was the righting of all road wrongs.
It was one game. It came down to the wire. The opponent was a 21-year-old superstar who hasn't mastered the whole clutch thing yet.
It was a great win, don't get me wrong. I was thoroughly excited about the big shots down the stretch, and even more ecstatic about the thoroughly big defensive stands, especially Kenny Thomas's brilliant charge take (which would've most likely been a brilliant Brad Miller charge take, had KT not got there first - truly a sight to behold for defense-cherishing Kings fans).
But tonight is the important game. If you lose to the Hawks, that win against Cleveland means absolutely nothing. You weren't supposed to win the Cavaliers game. It's a bonus that you did, and it takes the pressure off for a future road or home game that seems to be an unfavorable toss-up.
You are supposed to win the Hawks game, though. Should you not, that's one more road game against the Lakers or home game against Dallas you have to win. That's a game at Washington, New Jersey or Milwaukee you must win.
That's how the NBA works right now: Beat the teams you're supposed to beat and win 40-50 percent of the games against everyone else, and you make the playoffs. When you start losing to those teams you're supposed to beat - New York, Orlando, Toronto, Atlanta - then you have to beat teams like San Antonio, Dallas and Detroit to make up the difference.
Please don't make us count on you beating San Antonio and Dallas. Just beat the damn Hawks.
To the lineups!
PG - King Michael I
SG - Kevin Dallas Martin, Jr.
SF - Ronald Artest, player of epic proportions
PF - The Kenneth Cornelius Thomas Show
C - Congressman Brad Miller
PG - Joe Johnson
SG - Josh Childress
SF - Al Harrington
PF - Josh Smith
C - Zaza Pachulia
(Note: I thought Royal Ivey was the Hawks' starting PG, but he only played five minutes Wednesday. Tyronn Lue is out with a sprained MCL. I wouldn't be surprised if Salim Stoudemire got a spot start at SG, to help free up JJ. Salim ain't no point, but he's closer than Childress is.)
The line: -4. The Kings: road favorites. Savor it, America.
Fun bet o' the night: Al Harrington, points and assists: 25. If this were points and rebounds, I'd give it look. P+A? No way!
Sideshow most likely to be entertaining: Prior to Francisco's injury, I would've said the 6'7 Battle Royale. Throw JJ, Childress, Harrington, Smith, Garcia, Martin, Artest, Corliss and Monia into the bag and shake it up. Fun! Now? Vitaly Potapenko, Ronnie Price-like in his bench enthusiasm. Nothing could be more fun to watch.
Best matchup: Bibby vs. the Atlanta guards, namely Johnson. MB10 should be able to run circles around the bigger backcourt of Atlanta. JJ is a nice defender, but he's much better on guys primarily moving without the ball. Bibby is going to abuse JJ through screens all night, methinks.
Goal tracker update: The Kings are (ready for it?) in ninth place in the Western Conference. (Well, tied for it anyways.) Sacramento is three games below .500 and 1.5 games behind the Lakers for eighth place in the conference and third place in the division. The Kings have the same record as Utah, are two games ahead of the Warriors and Timberwolves, and are 2.5 games ahead of the Rockets.
4 p.m. start. Let us do this, Kings!