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There are bad Christmas presents, and there are good Christmas presents.
Then there are Christmas presents that you will always remember.
The Kings (13-14) gave themselves and their fans one of the latter Monday night, with the team's greatest comeback in Sacramento-era history – a 102-98 victory. On the road. Against the Chicago Bulls.
It didn't look good as late as the third quarter, when The Kings trailed by 35 points (79-44) with 8:56 remaining. But the present hadn't yet been unwrapped.
And Tyreke Evans' 23 points were a bow on the whole thing.
The NBA delivered its own present to the Kings this season with this holiday schedule.
Bringing Cleveland’s LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and the Cleveland Cavaliers into Arco Arena two nights before Christmas -- and Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest and the defending world champion Los Angeles Lakers three days after -- offers opportunities to fill the house with folks. And revenue.
A Kings spokesman said Monday that fewer than 2,000 tickets remain available for each game. The Kings have sold out only one game this season, the season opener against Memphis.
The star attractions and high-powered opponents offer other, less-festive possibilities: Matching defeats, one on either side of the holiday.
But that would be a pessimist’s view.
An optimist would see the two contests as opportunities for the Kings to establish legitimacy by competing against two of the NBA’s most talented teams.
It’s an opportunity to show the world -- as well as themselves -- that no opponent is too good, no moment too large for the league’s third-youngest team. Particularly at home.
Sacramento entered Monday's action as one of 13 teams to win 10 games at home and to represent itself as a team with a future. They proved themselves capable of a stunning come-from-behind victory. Another victory or two -- against the Cavs and/or Lakers -- could provide a major confidence boost.
Of course, there are those 11 defeats in 14 road games to illustrate the inconsistency of a young squad. And there is the erratic nature the Kings displayed Monday night.
But at this early juncture of the team's development, and despite Monday night's big win, success in these two upcoming games would be a surprise. Sacramento’s inability to consistently defend, especially around the basket, will show up most glaringly against the NBA’s elite.
It’s easy to envision James attacking the basket and meeting little or no resistance. The Lakers will bring one of the league biggest and tallest squads to Arco. Coach Phil Jackson’s squad will attack one of the Kings' most glaring weaknesses. And there are a number of them.
But Monday's victory should provide momentum.
The 35-point comeback was a memorable gift in an uncertain season, and gives credence to the young team's optimists. The Kings should roll into these upcoming contests against James and Bryant feeling good. They have shown they are fearless, if nothing else. So bring on King James and the Black Mamba and let's see if the neophytes can climb another mountain or two.
photo courtesy of kings.com