-- Down 3-2 to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Western Conference semifinals, facing the only opponent to have beaten them at home three times this season, the struggling Sacramento Kings desperately needed to elevate their game to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Spurred by the relentless, deafening cheers of the Arco Arena crowd, Sacramento did just that Sunday, dominating Minnesota in a physical Game 6 contest, and tying the best-of-seven series at three games apiece with a 104-87 win.
For the Kings, the victory was a total team effort, with five players scoring in double figures. Peja Stojakovic led Sacramento with team highs in points (22) and rebounds (8), while Mike Bibby racked up 16 points and 10 assists, and Doug Christie added 16 points.
Chris Webber finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, and Brad Miller came off the bench to collect 17 points and seven rebounds.
Webber all but guaranteed victory before Game 6, and though he stopped short of promising a win in Game 7 -- to be played Wednesday in Minneapolis -- he liked his team's chances.
"I'm confident, but no more predictions," said Webber. "I'm very confident. I think it's going to be a loud atmosphere, and they're going to be ready to play, especially with all that happened tonight."
Webber was referring to an altercation between the Timberwolves' Kevin Garnett and the Kings' Anthony Peeler, which came with 13.5 seconds remaining in the third quarter Sunday.
Garnett bumped a shoulder hard into Peeler, and Peeler retaliated, striking Garnett in the head with his forearm. Peeler was ejected and charged with a technical foul. Garnett, who remained in the game, was given a flagrant foul.
In protest, many of the 17,317 fans pelted the court with forearm-sized glow sticks, which had been passed out during pregame ceremonies. Several of the objects nearly hit players.
After the game, Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders expressed his discontent over the incident.
"The Maloofs are great owners, it's a great organization," he said, "but it's up to fans of this league to respect the game. Two teams are out there competing. They've got respect for each other. Emotions are going to run high. But I think there's no reason for things to be thrown on the floor. It's the second time in three games that things have been thrown on the floor."
The fight and the momentary chaos that ensued took much of the postgame attention off of Minnesota's poor performance. Latrell Sprewell led Minnesota with 22 points on 10-of-22 shooting. Garnett finished with 19 points, making 8 of 19 shots, and struggled to score, at various times, against Miller and Webber.
Sacramento Coach Rick Adelman was pleased by his team's performance.
"Both teams played so hard and so wild," he said. "We just hoped we'd have some people to survive and get in there. . . . Offensively, I felt if we moved the ball, we were going to get good looks. We're too good of a team to miss that many shots. We'd eventually knock them down."
Minnesota led for the opening minutes of the second quarter, but suddenly, Sacramento came to life. Peeler hit a 24-footer, Bibby buried a three-pointer, then he banked in an 18-foot fadeaway jumper, for a 39-37 lead.
Whatever momentum the Timberwolves had was gone, and over their next several possessions, Minnesota unraveled.
Sprewell traveled on a breakaway dunk, Hoiberg turned over the ball, Ervin Johnson was called for charging into Christie, and Saunders was called for a technical foul. Meanwhile, Sacramento's offense flourished, and a layup by Stojakovic ended a 14-0 run, putting the Kings ahead 45-37.
In the third quarter, Christie converted four consecutive free throws, and a dunk by Webber put the Kings up 67-55 with 5 minutes 20 seconds left in the period.
Then came the confrontation between Garnett and Peeler. After Peeler's ejection, in accordance with NBA rules, Saunders was allowed to select a Sacramento player to shoot the technical foul in Peeler's absence. He chose the Kings' rarely used substitute, Jabari Smith.
Smith stripped off his sweats, and to the elation of the roaring home crowd, made both free throws.