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No ‘Love-Shaq’

May 21, 2002 11:28 AM

Saturday was supposed to be the crowning moment for the Maloof brothers and the Sacramento Kings. So much for Plan A.

"A victory would be so big for the franchise," Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof told GamingToday when reached in Sacramento prior to a 106-99 loss to the Lakers in the opening game of the NBA Western Conference finals.

  The Kings were a 1½-point favorite to take the opening game, but with the loss of the home court advantage now find themselves right where they didn’t want to be ”” facing a must-win situation in Game 2.

"When you lose it’s tough," said Maloof, who along with brothers Joe and George run both the Kings and Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. "We had contacted the Guinness Book of World Records to establish a new mark for the loudest indoor sports venue. This was supposed to be one of the great sports experiences of all time."

The Arco Arena crowd created a decibel level of 112 but by the second quarter, the Kings were down 14 points in a quiet arena.

"Losing the first game won’t finish us," Maloof said. "It just adds to what makes the rivalry fantastic for the NBA and one heck of a sports spectacular."

The Lakers are an enormous 1-4 favorite to capture their third straight NBA championship. Sacramento is second choice at 4-1, according to Las Vegas Sports Consultants, despite owning the league’s best regular-season record.

"That’s true, we have put together the best team in franchise history," Gavin indicated. "We went from 55 wins last year to 61. They said we couldn’t win on the road, but we have won every road game in the playoffs."

For Sacramento to advance to the NBA Finals, at least one road victory at Staples Center must be accomplished.

"Jon Barry, who played with us last year, said our core of players have come together now," Maloof said. "Utah has been to the playoffs 19 straight years and we understand that type of commitment to success."

Maloof felt that standout guard Peja Stojakovic would return later in the series, but admitted he was out at least for the first two games.

"Acquiring Doug Christie, Bobby Jackson and Mike Bibby made us a better team both on offense and defense," he said. "We believe we can beat the Lakers, but we also know we can’t go down 0-2 to them."