Turning up the heat
Christie's intensity proves crucial to Kings' success
PHOENIX (AP) -- Doug Christie brought some much-needed defensive skill and intensity to Sacramento. His offense isn't bad, either.
Christie made the biggest shot of Sacramento's first-round playoff series with Phoenix in Game 3, and he and the Kings are just one victory away from advancing to a second-round matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sacramento, up 2-1 after beating the Suns 104-96 on their homecourt Sunday, can earn their first playoff series victory in two decades by winning again Wednesday night in Phoenix.
If the Suns win, the best-of-five series shifts back to Sacramento for the deciding fifth game on Sunday.
The Kings, who returned to Sacramento between games, want to finish it off as quickly as possible.
"I think that's going to be paramount for us, that we have that all-out effort," Christie said. "If we have to come back to Arco, then we'll have to do it again."
At 6-foot-6, Christie gives Sacramento a big defender at shooting guard, although in this series, he's been guarding playmaker Jason Kidd. He had a spectacular block of Kidd's breakaway layup during Sunday's victory.
Christie, acquired during the offseason from Toronto, gives Sacramento the kind of defensive edge that the Kings have lacked in the past. He saw that as soon as he got to Sacramento.
"Once I got to practice and got with the guys and saw the style of basketball where I could help, and that my skills could be displayed at the same time without having to look over at the coach all the time, I knew I wanted to take my game to the highest level I could," Christie said. "I am glad that I'm exceeding their expectations."
Suns coach Scott Skiles admires Christie's ability and determination.
"He's a great pickup," Skiles said. "He's a very, very good defender, a first-team all-defense defender in my opinion. He's made shots. He runs the floor. All-around, he's just having a great year for them."
Christie scored a playoff career-high 17 points, including two late 3-pointers.
The first came after Kidd slammed to the floor and bruised his hip on a drive to the basket. While he was lying there, Christie was wide-open at the other end and made the shot.
The most important basket, though, came later.
Vlade Divac had the ball inside and as he tumbled backward to the floor, somehow flung it out to Christie, who sank a 3-pointer that put Sacramento ahead 97-92 with 1:03 remaining.
"There's a lot being said about the shot that went in," Christie said, "but just to be able to be falling down, be 7-foot and make a play like that is big-time."
Kidd, who was limping slightly Monday but said he'd be fine by Wednesday, gives Christie the ultimate compliment of being "a team player."
"He's very unselfish. He doesn't have to score," Kidd said. "He's kind of found his niche, and that's what a team player is all about. He's one of those team guys."
Those three combined for 46 points a game in the regular-season. They were 9-for-29 from the field for 28 points on Sunday.
Marion was the worst. The high-leaping second-year forward had become one of the most spectacular players in the NBA this season. But he was just 4-for-15 in this game. Among his misses were short-range jumpers that he had made routinely during the regular season. He also drew two quick fouls because he left his feet on Peja Stojakovic's head fakes.
Kidd said Marion is discovering what it's like to be a player expected to be a major force in a big playoff game.
"This is Shawn's second playoffs. He's young," Kidd said. "There are a lot of high expectations of Shawn. This is a new role for Shawn, and he's learning."