SACRAMENTO -- Reggie Theus has his ways of motivating his team.
With the playoffs all but out of reach, the Kings' coach talks about reaching .500 and playing for self-respect. But he has a slightly different message for a fatigued Brad Miller.
"You have to finish what you started," Theus said. "That's the bottom line."
Theus said it would be unfortunate for Miller to close the season with the kind of low production he has had in the past three games -- especially given his breakout performances earlier this season that culminated in Player of the Week honors Feb. 4.
"I told Brad, we have (19) games left, we need you hard for the next 12 games, and after that you can start to slow down if you need to," Theus said after Tuesday's practice.
In the past three games, Miller has shot 4 for 13 with nine points and six turnovers. The 10-year veteran went scoreless in 25 minutes in Friday's 111-103 loss to Minnesota at Arco Arena. It was the first time Miller did not score in a regular-season game in which he played 20-plus minutes since Jan. 30, 2002, for Indiana against Utah.
Despite an interview request, Miller did not make himself available to reporters Tuesday.
His recent setback can be partly attributed to a tailbone injury from a hard fall under the basket against Miami on March 2. However, Theus said he believes Miller's slump stretches further back, perhaps stemming from his Feb. 3 finger injury.
Miller received nine stitches after slicing his right index finger while doing dishes on Super Bowl Sunday.
"When he cut his finger is when a lot of that started," Theus said. "He had about a week and a half where he didn't really do anything. Your conditioning at this time of the year is critical. I think that week and a half he lost some conditioning, and it showed up in terms of his stamina up and down the floor."
Before the finger injury, the Kings, and their fans, were just getting used to seeing Miller grab 20-plus rebounds a game. Miller produced at least 20 points and 20 rebounds in two of the three games leading up to the injury, both career firsts and a franchise record.
He has not grabbed more than 14 rebounds in a game since.
This season, Miller is averaging 14 points and 9.6 rebounds and shooting 45.9 percent from the field. In five games this month, he is averaging 7.4 points and 8.2 rebounds and shooting 38.9 percent.
The Kings are 2-3 in March with their next game Thursday against Portland at Arco. The Kings are 1-1 against the Trail Blazers this season, having played them twice in Portland. The teams' final meeting will be April 11 at Arco.
Point guard Beno Udrih said the remaining 19 games are important as the Kings play for "pride, basically."
"We can still get to the .500 (record) that we were always talking about," Udrih said. "Our mind has to be set on our next game."
LAKERS 117, RAPTORS 108, at Los Angeles -- Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 34 points in the final 8½ minutes, and Los Angeles defeated Toronto to regain the top spot in the Western Conference.
Now, it will face a major challenge staying there, playing its next four games on the road against New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and Utah, who have a cumulative record of 168-86 -- including 101-26 at home.
SUNS 132, GRIZZLIES 111, at Phoenix -- Amare Stoudemire scored 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 30 minutes to help Phoenix beat Memphis for the eighth time in a row.
TRAIL BLAZERS 103, TIMBERWOLVES 96, at Minneapolis -- Brandon Roy had 27 points and nine assists, playing biggest during a game-deciding 12-2 run in the fourth quarter, in guiding Portland past Minnesota.
PACERS 114, SUPERSONICS 107, at Indianapolis -- Mike Dunleavy scored 32 points to help Indiana end a three-game skid while handing Seattle its fifth consecutive loss.
WIZARDS 105, BUCKS 97, at Washington -- Antawn Jamison scored 23 points, and Washington handed Milwaukee its sixth loss in seven games.
BULLS 108, JAZZ 96, at Chicago -- Drew Gooden tied a season high with 24 points to help Chicago snap Utah's five-game winning streak.
Bee news services contributed to this report.