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Kings Take One Step Back, Lose 115-102 to Heat

The Kings and Heat as currently performing are basically equals. (This is without Kevin Martin.) The Heat are fifth in the East, the Kings 10th in the West. That's a fact no amount of improbability can change. But then, how did the Kings lose by 13, never getting closer than six points in the second half?

Well, one stretch in the second quarter really undid Sacramento. And unfortunately, it came with the team's best (healthy) players on the court.

Just after the six-minute mark in the second quarter, the Kings trailed by seven. Tyreke Evans (who had another monster box score -- 30 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 3 steals, 2 tov) entered the game for Jon Brockman, joining Beno Udrih, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes and Donte Greene.

Over the next eight possessions, the Kings scored ... two points. In nine possessions during that span, Miami scored ... 14. The Kings had three turnovers in the stretch, and shot 0-5 from the floor, 2-4 from line. Miami shot 5-8 from the floor (including two threes) and 2-2 from the line ... and had zero turnovers. Just a brutal stretch of play in which Dwyane Wade dictated the game on both ends.

The Kings and Heat basically played even the other 43-1/2 minutes -- Miami was +1, but the last minute of the game featuring your usual desperation madness. You can see this as a bad thing: the Kings had basically 25 minutes to go on a similar run of their own, or to make up all that lost ground at home, and didn't. But in the spirit of continual positivity, think of it this way: this wasn't so much a 13-point loss as it was a really really crappy 4-1/2 minutes of basketball bookended by a decent performance on the back end to two games in two nights.

The Kings won the rebound war, both according to the TV version (34-33 in raw totals) and by percentages (85 percent on the defensive glass, 30 percent on the offensive glass ... both solid). The turnovers were too frequent, and not just in that second quarter stretch. Who was the worst culprit? The amazing Sergio Rodriguez, who didn't so much return back to Earth as he crashed violently into the middle of a prairie, and not so much like Superman did but more like a race of dumb aliens who for some reason think the method of winning a basketball game is passing the ball to as many courtside spectators as possible. Just some brutal, brutal (not brutale!) turnovers there from Sergio. Five in 12 minutes.

Omri Casspi was smoking off the bench (not literally, his hand was figuratively smoking due to high heat), hitting all four threes, including a spectacular fading three at the buzzer ending the third quarter. The bench was actually perfect from beyond the arc (Beno Udrih hit two of his own), but the starting five went 2-16 from downtown, led (in a bad way) by Andres Nocioni (1-7), who refused to say die, unless you look at it realisitically, in which case Nocioni said "Die!" to the Kings offense. When he's on, he can really put these Martin-less, Garcia-less Kings on another dimension offensively. But when he's not, he has no filter in his head, and he begins shooting even more frequently than usual, which is weird, because when most non-stars aren't htting shots, they let someone else take them and find other ways to contribute. El Chapu did indeed have good energy, and hit the boards well (two offensive, four defensive in 30 minutes). But Nocioni isn't deadeye enough to shoot himself into a game. Ray Allen, Martin, Steve Nash, Rashard Lewis can do that. Nocioni can't.

Evans is now averaging 19.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.9 assists. Over his last 10 games, he's at 23.1/5.6/5.4 on damn near 50 percent shooting. Unbelievable.