In March 2001, I watched the Kings trail by 24 against the Phoenix Suns at halftime before rallying to win by double digits behind Chris Webber's 41 points. I remember that game fondly almost nine years later, because I never once thought that Sacramento would lose. It's hard to describe exactly what I felt, but it was more than mere hope or belief. I just knew.
Last night's stunning comeback victory over the Chicago Bulls — the biggest in team history and one point shy of the NBA record — was absolutely nothing like that.
I'll admit that I stopped watching the game before the first quarter buzzer sounded, when the Kings trailed by 22 points and allowed Chicago to shoot 71% from the field. After all, this wasn't a veteran team lead by the likes of Webber, Vlade Divac, and Doug Christie, but an inexperienced and alarmingly inconsistent squad that suffered a humiliating blowout loss to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves just three days earlier.
I periodically checked the score on my phone, and shook my head when the Bulls' lead ballooned to 24 points at halftime (coincidence?) and then a seemingly insurmountable 35 points (79-44) with under nine minutes left in the third quarter. Mostly out of boredom, I turned the game back on at the start of the fourth quarter, at which point the suddenly energized Kings swung the momentum back in their favor by cutting the deficit to 19.
A dozen fist pumps, screams, and "holy shits" later (that's all I can remember right now), Sacramento built a three-point a lead on Tyreke Evans' contested jump shot over Luol Deng with under a minute to go. The Kings finished the game on an incredible 58-19 run, outscoring the Bulls 19-3 in the final four minutes while somehow making more shots from the field in the fourth quarter (11) than the Bulls even attempted (10). For once, it was the other team's meltdowns — seven turnovers for Chicago, compared to just one for the Kings — that led to fast break opportunities and 21 shot attempts.