HOUSTON -- The winningest coach in Kings history was on the Houston Rockets' JumboTron, sharing his glory with the sort of capacity crowd they don't see in Sacramento anymore and trying his best to describe the feeling of ironic relief.
Rick Adelman's 800th victory came against his old team Monday night at Toyota Center, where Adelman breathed easy because the Kings fought hard before falling 108-100.
"Sacramento is a dangerous team," Adelman said to the lingering announced crowd of 18,241.
And this was a dangerous setting.
After the 22-game winning streak that vaulted the Rockets to the top of the Western Conference and made Adelman a Coach-of-the-Year candidate, there was the letdown.
The Rockets, who lost center Yao Ming to a season-ending foot injury 12 games into their streak, dropped three of four thereafter as they fell from first to fifth in the standings.
The Kings had just fallen to San Antonio and Memphis in what was a breaking of their own unique streak. Surely, the beat-the-best, lose-to-the-worst ways would return, and it appeared possible until late in the fourth quarter.
With the Rockets up 91-89 with 3:55 left, a Carl Landry layup, two Rafer Alston free throws and a timely nine-foot runner from Alston put Adelman's milestone within reach as Houston's lead grew to eight points.
The moment transpired because of the awakening of Tracy McGrady (eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter), Alston's strong finish (11 of his 28 points in the final period) and a remarkable discrepancy at the free-throw line (the Rockets hit 33 of 42, the Kings 11 of 16).
And when it was over, with the irony continuing as the Kings were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the second consecutive season after eight consecutive postseasons under Adelman, it wasn't just the home fans who stuck around to offer congratulations.
Francisco Garcia, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Kevin Martin and even Mikki Moore shook hands with Adelman, the 13th coach to reach that plateau.
With a mark of 800-504, Adelman's .614 winning percentage is the fourth-highest all-time among coaches with at least 1,000 games behind Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach and Pat Riley.
"I've been really fortunate," Adelman said before the game. "I was in two situations (Portland and Sacramento) where I was there a long time, and we won a lot of games. I know how fortunate I've been, and now I'm in another really good situation."
Artest, nursing a sore shoulder and elbow and a recent calf strain, finished with 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting, six assists and four of the Kings' 12 turnovers.